Dhow Sunset Sail



Kim was watching one of those travel channels on TV the other day and they were talking about amazing, one-of-a-kind travel destinations.  (Since we love to travel, we're always on the lookout for unique places to go.)  This particular show was featuring Zanzibar...a place we visited 5 years ago...so we were intrigued.



Zanzibar is an island off the east coast of Africa, part of the country of Tanzania. It has a very old history, once the center of slave trade.  Since I like exotic names and tropical islands (who doesn't???), Kim and I spent a few days there at the end of our first trip to Africa.

If you've been following Not-Quite-Country Girl for a long time, these photos and stories may sound familiar.  But just last night as Kim and I were remembering our time in Zanzibar, I had to go back and look through my photos and thought it was worth sharing about again.




The travel show used words like "Amazing," "Incredible," "Stunning," and "Unforgettable" in describing Zanzibar.  A "Once-in-a-Lifetime" experience.

Oh yes, we were amazed, incredulous, and stunned...and will definitely never forget our Zanzibar adventure.  And it will most definitely be the only trip we take there in our lifetime!  Suffice it to say that the Zanzibar we saw on the TV show was not the same Zanzibar that we experienced.  At.  All.




I would like to add our own descriptor of Zanzibar.

HOT!!!  Not just hot, but scorching, take-your-breath-away, sizzling, melting, stifling kind of hot. Temperatures well over 100 degrees every day with humidity to match.  Even the strong ocean breezes did not bring relief, just adding more heat.

Perhaps hot wouldn't have been so bad had we been able to cool off.  But there was NO ELECTRICITY on the entire island (apparently the underwater cable that brought electricity to Zanzibar from the African continent had rusted through 6 months before we arrived), so there was no air-conditioning.  Anywhere.  A few businesses, including our "hotel" (using the term loosely!) had generators that they would run for a few minutes every hour, so occasionally we'd get the brief respite of a fan blowing the hot air around the room for a few minutes.

Did I say it was HOT???!!!  In our mind, Zanzibar=HOT!  The hottest I've ever been in my life.




Our first Zanzibar destination was Stonetown, where we stayed in a former shiek's palace that had been converted into a "hotel."  We climbed open stairways that twisted and turned through a hot maze of corridors, several flights up, where our "bellboy" Ali proudly opened this very secure door,...



...pronoucing we had the best room in the city.  The former sheik's bedroom.

Now I'm all about staying in charming, unusual places and at first glance this looks exoticly fun.  But as we looked around, it was dirty...FILTHY...I'm not sure it'd been cleaned since the sheik last slept here.  

The room hadn't been opened for a long while, and we watched the dust motes dance in the stifling stale air as we walked into the room.  And it was HOT...probably 10 degrees hotter than outside, since it'd been shut up for so long.




As much as I love a long, luxurious bath, there was NO WAY I was sitting my butt down in that tub!



Kim and I were literally drenched in sweat.  Adding to the misery, Zanzibar is a very conservative Muslim island so we had to wear skirts and long pants in Stonetown.

And there is a good reason for the mosquito-netting around the bed.  The trick is to get inside and leave the mosquitos OUTSIDE of the net...

After Ali left us, sweaty and stunned into silence and coming to the realization that we'd be staying in this room for two nights, Kim turned to me and said in the most serious voice ever, "We have died and gone to Hell."

And we both burst out in a fit of laughter that left us weaker and hotter still, and trying to get to the filthy toilet before our tears of laughter ran down our legs!  It was a moment I'll never forget, one of the funniest moments of our marriage, and makes me laugh to this day.

We shed our sweat-soaked clothes down to our underwear and lay down on the bed, flat on our backs with our arms and legs spread, too hot to touch, trying to cool our overheated bodies.  And every half hour or so, the overhead fan came on stirring up the dust again and blowing the oven air around for a few minutes.



We kicked ourselves because we had already paid for a 3-hour walking tour of Stonetown the next morning.  I was very willing to back out, but Kim insisted that since we had paid for it that we go. Because we both knew we would NEVER pass this way again!


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Stonetown is known for its beautiful wooden doors, laden with metal spikes.  The spikes were used to prevent the elephants of marauding raiders from battering the doors down.



Sadly and ironically, the underground room where the slaves were kept before being sold was the coolest place in the entire city.  But very, very sad...




The city market was the place to be.  And yes, that is a fish in that bicycle basket....in 120 degree heat?!




The gorgeous view from our hotel window...



At every turn, tangles of electrical lines taunted us...



Normally, Kim and I would explore a city like this on our own.  But we never felt safe there...the people were unfriendly and we had been warned by another traveler that the Stonetown streets are a complicated maze and it's very easy to get lost.  

One thing we knew...we DID NOT want to get LOST in Stonetown!!!



So, except for the exhausting and HOT walking tour (which we incredibly survived!), we stayed in the sheik's room and ate all our meals on the rooftop (lots more stairs!!!) hotel restaurant, which had 5 tables total.

No ice.  No cold drinks.  Even the fruit was hot.  EVERYTHING in Zanzibar was HOT!  I hope I'm getting that point across!



Another thing that was very unsettling...Ali (on the right) and his friends camped out right outside our very secure door all the time.  We could hear them out there. And whenever we got ready to leave the room, they were pushing and jockeying for position, hoping to carry my purse (NO WAY!!!) or any other bag for the tip of an American dollar.  We were the most popular...and I think the ONLY...hotel guests.

As I'm looking at this photo, Ali's name tag says "Public Area Cleaner."  Really???  Maybe he should start with the sheik's room......



If we said we were reluctant to leave Stonetown, it would be a huge lie!  We could not WAIT to escape!!!  We spent our last couple of days in a beach resort on the north shore of the island...I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

As I fondly remember our adventures in...




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