Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Zanzibar: Touch Down in Tanzania

Arriving in Zanzibar, an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, after a 20 minute flight from the international airport in Dar Es Salaam, it was clear that we were on a different continent. With some anxiety we finally encountered the driver that was to escort us an hour north to the beachside escape of Nungwi.  As we passed through the hustle and bustle of the main town, the buildings began to morph into single story, one room structures made of mud, wood and stone finished with coconut palm roofs. Children played in the red dirt among chickens, goats and cattle while mothers and grandmas stood guard over roadside stands selling small tomatoes, limes, peppers, lychee, squash, cassava and root vegetables. Behind the villages and through the trees we caught the occasional glimpse of the deep blue ocean in the distance.

Even in the taxi, I was still a little trepidatious about this journey Kent and I were undertaking. We’d read that Zanzibar is an incredibly conservative island and local women cover themselves from head to toe in respect to their Muslim faith. On top of that, we would be in Zanzibar right in the middle of Ramadan, where people fast from sun up to sundown. We had no idea what to expect from the locals and I was a little worried about not being able to wear my cute new bikini as I frolicked on the beach, yet excited that I might lose a few pounds from the fasting bit.

The town of Nungwi was not the idyllic fishing village I had imagined exploring. Instead it consisted of single story cement structures, many without doors or glass for the windows. Merchants sat languidly in the heat watching our taxi closely as we drove along the dirt path. Finally a sign spray painted onto a scrap of metal announced that our hotel, the Langi Langi, was this direction. It can never be a good sign when a sleeping establishment cannot afford proper signage but my anxieties were quieted as soon as we pulled into the drive way and saw the beautiful white washed buildings with dark wood beams, lush tropical gardens and big blonde Scandinavian tourists milling about.

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