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Wednesday, December 19th, 2012, Zanzibar Day 1

Zanzibar, Day 1

I have had confirmation that Kiponda B & B in Zanzibar does have room – 2 rooms actually, for there are five of us.  Dorah, Paulyn, Todo, Rube and me.  Paulyn, Dorah and I were picked up at 6 am by Todo and Rube.  The Ferry Building is at the base of downtown Dar.  Getting through downtown traffic in the early morning rush can be a stop and go affair. Although the ferry didn’t depart until 9:30 we chose to go early to miss this craziness. Upon arrival the next challenge was parking.  Todo decided the best place was the back of the parking lot of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church directly across for the terminal.  Driving ever so slowly down the side of the church to avoid people coming and going to early morning mass in many different chapels we found a spot at the back. An accommodating attendant agreed to let us stay!

They were accommodating us and let us park our car.
They were accommodating us and let us park our car.

Not the best photo of St Josephs, but I took the picture from the ferry and the sea was choppy.

Getting my ticket was an adventure.  Foreigners pay more – there isn’t a standard rate. I went off to the foreigner cubicle, showed my passport  (it never occurred to me that I might need my passport now that I am in Tanzanizia but it was Dorah who had read I would need it)  filled out forms and paid $35 US dollar.  Voila, my ticket.   Todo, Rube and I head off in search of breakfast.  The girls aren’t hungry. Even though downtown Dar was just waking up we found a restaurant which offered my standard breakfast since arrival: eggs  My avoidance of fruit, vegetables, and anything that might give intestinal issues is working, so far – thanks also to my daily dose of grapefruit seed pills.

When we returned to the Ferry waiting room it was filling up.

Rube, Dorah, Paulyn
Rube, Dorah, Paulyn

I was told that the owner of Azum Marine, the ferry company, was one of those wonderful success stories.  It seems that he started his business life selling shoes on the street and had good success.  So, he applied for a cleaning job at a corporation.  When they ask him for his e-mail he said he didn’t have one. They didn’t hire him because their only way of communicating with employees was through e-mail.  Never mind, he went on and started another small business and was successful.  You get the story. Now, many years later he has become a major business force in Dar, one of them being this Ferry Company.

Our ferry came in –  a very modern one, doesn’t take cars.  To my amazement we had to go through security, both our bags and ourselves.  Okay, that’s a challenge for me. I have a pacemaker, I don’t go through screening.  I have to be patted down.   Hmmm.  Todo took charge commenting:  I  knew there was a reason I dressed like someone who lives on Zanzibar, meaning she was dressed as muslim woman.

Todo attired as a Muslim as we journey to Zanzibar
Todo attired as a Muslim as we journey to Zanzibar

A young Muslim woman was in charge of the screening. With much chatter in Swahili  between she and Todo the woman finally agreed to allow me to go outside with her where she unlocked a gate and let me pass.  (No, I wasn’t patted down.)  Meanwhile Toto went through and picked up her luggage and my luggage and purse.  Hmmm, I am wondering what it will be on the return.

We were within the first 100 passengers so got great seats by the window at the front of the boat.

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My camera out, we departed.  I was surprised at the number of container ships in the harbor as well as those waiting outside the harbor, only to learn that Dar is a major center for shipments from Africa.

Lots of container ships
Lots of container ships
Skyscrapers are now dotting the skyline of Dar es Salaam
Skyscrapers are now dotting the skyline of Dar es Salaam

The trip (2 hours) was uneventful – no rough sea.  Thank goodness.

About 10 minutes out of Zanzibar we pass an island off of which must have be a reef.  The result is a blue/green sea in a grey ocean.  ((It was a cloudy day.)

While the ocean was grey, in the distance not far from the Zanzibar shows we saw a section of the ocean very blue/green
While the ocean was grey, in the distance not far from the Zanzibar shows we saw a section of the ocean very blue/green

Coming into Zanzibar we view the many architecture styles found on the Zanzibar  island:  white buildings with black lines,  steeples, red roofed buildings etc.

A mosque tower
A mosque tower
A Sultan's home, called the House of Wonders because it was the first building to have an elevator (late 1890's)
A Sultan’s home, called the House of Wonders, because it was the first building in Zanzibar to have an elevator (late 1890’s)
Red roofed buildings were plentiful, we discovered.
Red roofed buildings were plentiful, we discovered.

 

This small port has room for one large container ship.
This small port has room for one large container ship, our ferry is beside it.

As we disembark we are separated.  The crowds are rushing.  I, being clearly a different nationality, was stopped by a guard who said: immigration and gave me a blue card to fill out  Okey doke!  No arguing with “city hall”.  I and at least another 50 of us are corralled to the side.  Being tall is an advantage. I caught the eye of a lady official who is standing in the door.  I need a pen which she produces.  The blue card had tiny printing, so out came my glasses. Balancing my personal stuff trying to make sure nothing was taken, I completed the form. I glanced at the lady and she took me next. My blue form stamped, I departed to find my pals of four wondering what on earth had happened to me.A porter from Kiponda B & B is standing with a Kiponda sign as we exited the controlled ferry area. To our delight we discover we could walk to the Old Town in five minutes where our charming B&B awaited. Checked in, we set off hungrily meandering through a maze of tiny streets called Stone Town.

Our debut walking tour in Stone Town's tiny alleys
Our debut walking tour in Stone Town’s tiny alleys

We found a place (Lukman Restaurant) which served a wide variety of food – chinese, Indian, Dar.  Everyone sat at large tables. Students and hearty types had also discovered this watering hole.  We devoured our food.  I took rice with tiny cooked vegetables and a green dish that looked like spinach.  No, it was more bitter but delicious. The girls ate meat over their rice. Todo ate Lobster.  I tried it, was delicious.  Problem, the restaurant offers too big a quantity. None of us could finish our meal.  Oh well.

Nourished, we retraced our steps into the maze of tiny streets and came across the Public Baths. Built by Sultan  Said Barghash in the late 19th century, the Hamamni Persian Baths were the  first public baths in Zanzibar. According to our guide these baths were hardly public.  He felt you had to be a member of the club to get in. It was used as a place to talk business.

The baths had niches around this space for shoes and other clothing.  The fountain was in the center of the room.
The baths had cublicles niches around this fountain for shoes and other clothing.
The floors of marble bespoke of an elegant past.
The floors of marble bespoke of an elegant past.

However, the literature says that the baths were for public use, by both men  and women with separate entrance times. This foyer above was a gatherine place once the shoes etc had been left behind. I guess the bathers were in robes.

Those in the baths sat on these bankettes with the water flowing over them.
Those in the baths sat on these bankettes with the water flowing over them. I can imagine business was negotiated here.
Those providing services to men and women using the baths made their entrance and exit from the building using the door on the upper left side of photo
Those providing services to men and women using the baths made their entrance and exit from the building using the door on the upper left side of photo

Our first sightseeing complete we continue wandering the narrow streets noticing that again the wooden doors were a highlight.

An intricate door design
An intricate door design

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Another beautiful door
Another beautiful door

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Dorah, our trusty tour guide had done her homework.  She began to encourage us to head towards the quay where there were several historic buildings.  Down yet another alley way we went.

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We arrived at the Palace Museum located on the sea front between the House of Wonders and the Old Dispensary.

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According to Wikipedia, the palace was built in late 19th century to serve as a residence for the  Sultan’s family. After the Zanzibar Revolution, in 1964 it was formally renamed to People’s Palace and used as a government seat. In 1994, it became a museum about the Zanzibari royal family and was formally renamed again, this time to “Palace Museum”.

One floor of the museum is dedicated to Sultanm Khalifa bin Harub. These were public rooms where the Sultan received his guests.

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Part of the third floor contained rooms relating to Sayyida Salme, best known as Emily Ruete, former Zanzibari princess who fled from the sultanate to relocate in Europe with her husband.  I didn’t photograph these rooms because they seemed discombobulated.  It was hard to know where to focus.  However, I would be very interested to read her autobiography (which exists).

When we first started looking at these historic buildings my heart sank.  They need to be taken care of, they need renovation etc. etc.  Later in the day, we discovered that Unesco with the government of Zanzibar have designated Stone Town and these historic buildings as a historic site and, indeed, renovation is beginning.  That made me feel so much better.

Time to move on.  Our next stop was the House of Wonders only we couldn’t wander in because it is under renovation. This is a huge structure.

It is situated right on the quay
It is situated right on the quay
House of Wonders, side view under renovation.
House of Wonders, side view under renovation.

Next stop was The Old Fort – also on the quay.

This and the following photo I found on Wikipedia.

Stage inside the Old Fort with Paulyn and Dorah acting a scene for us.
Stage inside the Old Fort with Paulyn and Dorah acting a scene for us.
Born actresses, these two.
Born actresses, these two.

The interior of this fort is huge.  There are two components – one housing this theater, the other side has a large open area (with little booths selling goods, now).  During invasions in past centuries, the town inhabitants moved into this fort for safety.

These walls had rounded pointed tops - a design one sees often on Zanzibar.
These walls had rounded pointed tops – a design one sees often on Zanzibar.

We were done with our sightseeing for the day.  Ever so grateful that our B & B was close by. We headed for showers with running hot water!  Even though the temperature was in the high 80’s, the shower felt divine.

The girls, Paulyn and Dorah and I shared a large room.  Late afternoon siesta time
The girls, Paulyn, Dorah and I shared a large room. Late afternoon siesta time,  Note the mosquito netting.  A must in Tanzania.

8 pm and time for dinner.  Only, we couldn’t wake Todo.  The weeks of preparation for the wedding finally hit her.  She was out like a light.  So, the four of us headed out.

This hotel/restaurant was very upscale and inviting.  Rube poses for me.
This hotel/restaurant was very upscale and inviting. Rube poses for me.

Everyone we met had told us about the great smorgasboard of food offered on the quay each night.  We explored, glad we took the advice. Tantalizing.

The variety available was amazing.  Each vendor had little stoves adjacent to the stand to heat up the food before delivering it.
The variety available was amazing. Each vendor had little stoves adjacent to the stand to heat up the food before delivering it.
Each booth had an artistic flair. There were probably 40 of them.  Hard to choose!
Each booth had an artistic flair. There were probably 40 of them. Hard to choose!
The lighting was dramatic, especially the trees.
The lighting was dramatic, especially the trees.
Years ago Todo brought this Tanzanian outfit to me in San Francisco.  I had never had an occasion to wear it.  Tonight I did.
Years ago Todo brought this Tanzanian outfit to me in San Francisco. I had never had an occasion to wear it. Tonight I did.

We stayed on the quay for quite some time.  There were so many different types of people.  The Muslim women brought their kids, laid out carpets and stayed for the evening. Teen-agers and students jumped from the parapet into the ocean below – absolutely no fear. Foreign students were all around, sitting on friendly stone benches circling the large area.  It was just very pleasant to be there in the warm balmy evening.

Then our energy waned and we returned to the B & B and to bed.

Should you be planning a trip to Zanzibar I highly recommend the Kipondo Hotel (B & B). Hotel Kiponda,  Nyumba Ya Moto St | PO Box 3446, Tanzania.   Contact Salma (the general manager)  either by e-mail info@kiponda.com or by phone at +255-777-431-665.  Only consideration is to ask for a room not on the street.  Street noise can be annoying.

 

 

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