If you want to take a break in warm white, sandy beaches, think Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an island in the Indian Ocean, located about 25 to 30 miles from the coast of Tanzania.
I love Swahili culture and in Zanzibar, Swahili culture is blended with Arabic and Indian cultures. From the unique architecture to the artwork, these rich and beautiful cultures manifest themselves in incredible and astonishing ways. The white exotic beaches take your mind off everything. They are so quiet and serene, and the only sound you hear is that of water hitting the rocks. Could be worse, right?
Nungwi beach is my favorite. It is located in the northern part of Zanzibar, an hour's drive from Stone Town. I recommend taking the public bus from Stone Town. The scenery on the way is worth seeing and you’ll get a first-hand experience of the people and their lifestyle.
Zanzibar is made up of many islets. I particularly like the prison island because of its rich history. In the colonial times, the slave trade was rampant in Africa. Given that Zanzibar was a trading center, slaves were transported to their masters from its shores. Prison Island was the correctional facility for the slaves. While the slave
trade was officially abolished in 1876, slavery itself remained legal in Zanzibar until 1897. Prison Island stands as a reminder now of hope and humanity overcoming imprisonment and suffering.
The Spice of Life
Have you ever wondered where spices like cinnamon, cloves, pepper and nutmeg come from? Zanzibar is where these great spices are mostly grown. Zanzibar is sometimes called the Spice Island. It is one of the leading spice exporters in the world. If you are interested, there
are tours and you can check out how these spices are grown and see some fairly incredible scenery firsthand.
When taking a break from all worries, music is the food of the soul. The Swahili traditional music is called Taarabt. The calmness and finesse with which the Swahili people play their music will serenade you into just the right mood. The women, in particular, move their waist while the rest of the body is stiff. It is like nothing you have ever seen. The men mostly play instruments and leave the dancing to the ladies.
The women are adorned with ‘Shanga,' the Swahili traditional necklaces. They are very keen on their looks. The necklaces and other adornments are made by women on the roadsides. The artwork is crafted with so much expertise that you really get a sense of the Swahili aesthetic. You can learn how to braid rugs and carpets from the kind and generous women if you’re interested. I tried it and it was really fun. They coached me in how to incorporate the traditional patterns and while my rug didn’t look as great as theirs, I still look at it fondly today as a keepsake.
Did you know that the traditional Swahili people do not have dining tables? They sit together on braided floor rugs and enjoy their delicacies.
The roofing of Swahili traditional houses is not what we are used to. They braid dried palm leaves and arrange them on top of their houses as roofing. There are no leakages, and they bring coolness into the rooms so efficiently that there is no need for air conditioners.