The air seems heavier down here. As my body is struggling with the heat, I am wondering if passing from -15. C of the Frozen Iceland, to the 35 .C of a heavy, humid Zanzibar, it is actually a good idea.
The contrast is striking, just a few hours ago I departed from a well organized land, where culture, manners, and high lifestyle is a daily concern, and here I am now in Zanzibar, a land where at a first glimpse, the chaos is normality.
My senses have been assaulted, colorful, noisy people started dragging me to their taxi.
I feel as rivers are chasing down my spine and my breath was now taking a life of its one. My heart starts pounding as if it’s not coping with my brain, or maybe I was still frozen and now all my buds were waking up to life.
“Little one, where are you going”, a somehow familiar voice was calling. I woke up from my hypnotic state realizing that I am not alone.
Lets call him Tim, a portuguese kite-surfing instructor, happened to be seated next to me, and as solo travelers, starting a conversation didn’t take much effort.
After a few drinks, ( he found out is my birthday), our expectations of this journey, somehow matched. So we decided to exchange numbers and potentially meet up with the rest of the gang.
I was not really convinced of the idea of meeting a new gang, in a place I have never been, trusting a guy I have just met.
However, here we are, in front of the small airport saying goodbye and see you in a few days!…Maybe !!!!
Once again, I found myself alone. Not as if is new to me, but in a way, every time is different.
My taxi driver was waiting.
In a very strong African-English, he introduced himself as Mohamed, and without any other introduction he jumped on talking about the politics of the place, his family and inquiring about mine.
How it all stated!
Zanzibar has passed through a history of slavery and Arab domination, however at a first glimps people seem to have made peace with the past.
The two days spent in the Stone-Town, will soon teach me the insights of the culture. Another Mohamed, my tour guide this time, made sure he will not skip a detail while he guided me through the city markets, slave caves, and fortresses.
The brief history I will guide you through next, is a mix between official facts and personal information shred by the people I have interacted with durring my stay.
It seems to me that Zanzibar was always a lay-back nation. Lacking the military defense and being expose from the ocean, to commercial routs, they have always asked protection from powerful nations.
The Portuguese were the first to succumb the territory. Zanzibar has asked their help in developing the country. However the Portuguese attitude was: “I came, I see, I conquer”, taking advantage of the man power and starting here one of the biggest slaves markets in Africa.
This pushed the locals on asking the Arabic peninsula for help. Oman, back then under British dominance, accepted to help and liberate the country from the Portuguese domination, however they decided to stay.
Durring the arab domination, the majority of the portuguese culture and architecture got distroyed, between which, most of the christian churches.
The Islam will now become the dominant religion in Zanzibar and with it, the slavery becomes illegal.
However in the depts of the forests, a black market survived. The caves where the slaves were kept, are paying testimony until today to an era of oppresion.
After years of suffering, the British came in, trying to eradicate the slavery, and as a testimony, on the ruins of the slave-market, we can now find an Anglican church. However the one who finally stopped the slavery was Said bin Sultan, the 3rd sultan of Oman,
Finding freedom, didn’t convert the nation in a revengeful or closed culture, by contrary, they have learned to accept their faith.
The combination between a dominant Muslim belief, a lay back African culture and a history of suffering, converted Zanzibar in to one of the most humble and friendly African country.
Zanzibar in Arabic means ” the land of black man” . Therefore, African people, speaking Swahili, guides by Muslim religion, with a deep influence of Indian architecture and cuisine, Zanzibar seem to keep its calm and peace, converting tourism, into their hope for development.
Satisfied with the findings, and influenced by the new welcoming culture, I have decided to trust my new travelling friend and to open up to what proved to be, a Hakuna-matata life experience.
The fun begins !!!
I always say, if it feels good, its not necessary safe! However Zanzibar prove me the contrary.
From the Stone Town to Paje Beach, where I suppose to meet Tim and the rest of the gang, takes about 2 hours on taxi.
The road submerges into a dense coconut jungle, the only sign of life being the red ass monkeys crossing the streets in a lazy attitude.
Here and there, popping up from nowhere you can also meet the locals, selling the annual harvest.
My taxy driver, who by now was calling me “Sister”, invited me for a fruit lunch on a sidewalk. A huge Jackfruit was freshly cut, and we all shared the sweet taste; a combination of pineapple and banana.
Mary, the wife of our host and side-road sails-man, gifted us a bag full of mandarins and small bananas for the road, and we soon head back towards Paje Beach
We have reached Paje by afternoon, just in time for a sunset dinner.
Tim was waiting for me as if he was waiting an old friend.
Without further pleasantries, he informed me that I was supposed to meet them all for dinner on the beach bar.
An Australian, a Dutch, an Italian, a Jordanian and two Portuguese, were waiting for me.
Even though they have welcomed me in their family, the true bound arrived after a few drinks and some hammock side story. We all breath relived finding out that we haven’t bumped into any psycho. 😂
The stories continued until late in the night, as the stars were competing with each other in getting our attention. I haven’t seen such a spectacular parade since childhood.
Waking up in Heaven!
The sand is still warm under my feet, and as I walk along the beach, the freshness of the morning air, reminds me somehow of Iceland. Just two days ago, my mornings were tough. Waking up in a freezing cold place is a major task for me.
The sun starts rising, painting the sky in orange shades, with splashes of pink assaulting the infinite sky. I forgot how much I use to love waking up for sunrise.
Since the wind was not in our favor, we have spent the next 5 days between bonfires, beach parties, motor-rides, and complete laziness.
Sun-kissed and submerged in a deep calmness, tingling my senses with beautiful stories, laughing my heart out with people which are more precious than diamonds, I once more metaphorically hug myself for taking that leap of faith and trust people.
Travelling solo can be a phobia for many, or a dream for the others, but for me is an opportunity to experience, learn and discover.
PS: 1 year after, my Zanzibar acquaintances, are now my good friends. People I treasure and admire, people I am grateful for!