After just 27 hours on rural Tanzanian "roads" on a bus with no shocks, our sore butts bumped into Dar es Salaam at around 3AM one fine September morning. Luckily, there was a hotel near the bus office where we were able to score a room with bathroom, TV, and even an AC unit for about $12.
When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed later that day, we discovered that we even had a balcony with a nice view of Tanzania's biggest city. Sweet!
You may notice a sad lack of street food in that city scene below. That's probably because it was still Ramadan when we arrived in Tanzania, where almost half of the population is Muslim. That meant that some restaurants were closed, and there wasn't a ton of food out on the street during the day...but our neighborhood did have a huge nighttime street market where you could find plenty of stuff.
We spent one full day in Dar, mostly running errands, and that was just about enough. There isn't all that much to see there. The most exciting thing we did was finally meet Kristen, Africa guru and author of my favorite-named (and also one of my just plain favorite) travel blogs, The Modern Young Lady's Guide to Coups, Contagions, and Calamity. Her blog and her e-mails have provided us with a ton of inspiration and support for our travels, especially in West Africa, so we were happy to finally catch up with her at her current post and thank her by letting her take us out to dinner.
(Yeah, you read that right. I don't know how it happened, but she insisted on paying, and, well, you don't want to mess with Kristen! So we now owe her a very nice meal one day when our paths cross again, in New York, East Timor, who knows where?)
Anyway, pics of that meal in the next food post. The following day, we were off to Zanzibar, the "spice island" just off the coast in the Indian Ocean. We took this boat, The Flying Horse--and in case you are contemplating Zanzibar ferries, it is the slower, cheaper one and got us there just fine.
In (on?) Zanzibar, we stayed in Stone Town, which is the "old city" part of Zanzibar Town,the port. Here's a nice garden and arch, which I assume is made out of stone.
Stone Town reminded me of a Moroccan medina, full of little winding streets and alleys that are easy to get lost in. As in Morocco, there were plenty of tourists around, but also plenty of locals going about their lives in their homes and shops and mosques. I found it much more relaxed than Morocco, too...but maybe all the street touts were just semi-comatose from not eating all day (Zanzibar is about 98% Muslim, so Ramadan was being observed in full force).
Most restaurants were closed during the day, but as soon as 5:30 hit and the imams' calls announced that the sun was officially down, the street food vendors would start selling like mad. The Forodhani Gardens were a central point where tourists and locals alike flocked for grilled seafood, chapatis, and sugar cane juice.
We went for a "spice tour" at a local plantation and learned all sorts of things. For instance, did you know that mace and nutmeg come from the same plant? Nutmeg is the seed, and mace is this pink stuff that clings to the outside of the seed. (The yellow fruit is apparently also edible--it gets stewed in India, but our guide told us that in Zanzibar no one likes it.)
The spice plantation had some jackfruit trees. The guide tried to tell us it tasted delicious, like pineapple, but we ate jackfruit once at an Indonesian restaurant in New York and thought it tasted like...nothing. I suspect we will encounter it again in Asia...
Turmeric! This is what makes curry yellow.
During the tour, local guys followed the group around and made us all sorts of items out of banana leaves. This cone was actually supposed to hold our spice-tasting refuse, but Andy thought it looked better as a hat, on me. Clearly, I disagreed.
More fun were these glasses they made Andy out of of a pineapple leaf. (Then, of course, they started asking for tips for services we never wanted in the first place...hm, maybe Zanzibar was more like Morocco than I realized.)
Zanzibar's beaches are famous for being beautiful. We had recently enjoyed some nice beach time in Mozambique, so we didn't make a multiday trip like many other tourists do, but the afternoon visit we made to this beach near Stone Town was very pleasant.
Our final day on Zanzibar was actually spent off Zanzibar, diving in the ocean. The diving on the east side of the island is supposed to be better for fish, but the coral near Stone Town on the west side was fantastic, and visiting it was probably my favorite dive since Belize.
Even better, our divemaster had a dive camera with her and was nice enough to let us have a few pictures for the blog! (Though not the high-res versions of them. She was very proprietary about those. Ah, well.) Here are some things we saw.
Nudibranch, or sea slug:
Fun orange anenome (yeah, that's the scientific name):
Homo sapiens, female and male:
And that night, we took the Flying Horse overnight back to the mainland. We certainly could have spent a few more days on the island, but it was time to continue our Tanzanian adventures.
Zanzibar is one of those places that gets a lot of tourists, and that everyone tells you you "can't miss," but--like Macchu Picchu, and Cape Town--I found that it actually lived up to all the hype. I really enjoyed our three days there, and would be happy to go back some year and explore further.