Proud Masai of Zanzibar. Uroa Bay Fishing village
Confirming a reservation in Tamarind Beach Resort ( www.tamarindhotelzanzibar.com / +255 777 411 191 ) for three nights at about 30$ a night was a great idea. Located on the beach in the Uroa Village on the Easter edge of Zanzibar Island, the resort had everything to offer except great food but maybe one can blame the offseason for that. Guess, me being the only guest, their motivation to provide exotic cuisine was on a super low. Having had my fill of Octopus and steamed rice for 3 meals in a row, it was time to explore the other cosy resorts littered across the coast line. A short walk along the beach and I bumped onto Uroa Beach Resort which was fortunately still packed with tourists and served an elaborate buffet for as low as 20$ pp. The staff at Tamarind were however extremely helpful and courteous. That is precisely how I happened to meet up with Rajab, a local form the Uroa Fishing Village, being an ametuer videographer he knew the best places in Zanzibar from where I could pursue my craze for photography. One of the first places he took me to, on his fathers Vespa scooter, was the Fish market in the centre of the village. The market was nestled on the beach and the auctions for the fresh catch of the day was a sight to see. Bustling with locals, Rajab helped me find my way and also proved to be an important ally when it came to translation. My broken Arabic helped me to an extent, though thereafter Rajab took over.
A Sting Ray was brought in while I was about and it was auctioned off for 85$ to the highest bidder. Zanzibar is also famous for its spices and in the village I got to see how the local women ground the spices for their daily usage. The village was like a kaleidoscope into the rural life of present day Tanzania and for me that was like a bonanza. The people were friendly and extremely tolerant towards an Indian loitering around and occasionally sticking a camera into their faces.
Leaving the fishing village behind, Rajab scootered me further south along the eastern coastline of Zanzibar island. As we drove around I couldn't avoid but notice the hard-working culture of the rural Zanzibar folk. Men and women alike took on herculean tasks in their everyday life in a world still to be ravaged by the advent of technology. Not many people owned cars in this part of the Island and the few that had them used them primarily for ferrying tourists to and from the airport. Even when it came to the fishing boats, it was evident that wind was still the major fuel used to drive 'em. Relatively pollution free Uroa Bay is a great place to cool your heels instead of the very congested Stone Town of Zanzibar. We then travelled to the Zanzibar Rock Resort (http://www.zanzibarrockresort.com) located at Pongwe village (+255 778 948 704). It was an island in itself and just like every other prime property in Zanzibar, was owned by foreigners. Europeans, Arabs, Indians...every single beach property in Zanzibar is owned by a foreign investor. For as low as 100,000 USD one hectare of very basic beach front property could be purchased by an investor irrespective of the citizenship one held. (www.pembaproperties.com & www.zanzibarproperties.com) One just needs to be careful that the property is genuine as resale of already sold property is a roaring business. So beware.
Staying in the Uroa Bay comes at a cost. It takes 40 minutes and 50000Tsh to get to Stone Town and back. Although the resorts in Uroa Bay accept Credit/Debit cards, the closest ATM is located in Stone Town. Famous for its church and the Slave Chambers, the town is the hub centre of all activity. Asking Rajab to take me to into town on his fathers Vespa was a bit too much so we hired Ally to do the honours. At 60000Tsh he agreed to drive us into town, wait 2-3 hours for Rajab to show me around and then drive us back after sunset, all the while listening to the latest Tanzanian hip-hop. 'AkaDumba' being the favourite of both Rajab and Ally, the video gives the viewer the feel of real Tanzanian street dance. It didn't take much for a music buff like me to fall in love with the song and the dance, though I couldn't make head or tail out of it.
Grown-ups and kids alike, took great pleasure in throwing themselves into the ocean from the embankments especially during sunset and when a camera was introduced into the scenario, it lead to added energy and spirit. The major attractions of Stone Town include the House of Wonders and its iconic Clock Tower, The Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ and its Slave chambers and the narrow alleys and gulleys where cyclists and scooters whizz past you at breakneck speeds.
I finally went weed hunting in Stone Town and managed some for 5$ but it wasn't worth the effort and after smoking a fraction of it flushed the rest down the toilet. This is how you do it....locate a Rastaman, easily recognizable by his dreadlocks, tell him how much you love Bob Marley and the rest will follow. Locally grown hashish and pot are readily available, though its advised not to smoke it openly or you would end up having to grease the palms of the law enforcement authorities. The high was good while it lasted. God bless Bob Marley and the beaches of Zanzibar. Unable to associate with the alcohol high, an uncomfortable truth I learnt in my late 30's, searching for local pot is an integral part of all my journeys. Maybe it forms a kind of a connect between my past, the present and whats to come in the future, other than the obvious of meeting interesting people and in this particular case the Rastaman and his love for good ol' Bob. (Apologies to Snoop Dog, your fame is still to get here)
Zanzibar wouldn't have been what it was had I not met Rajab, a local from Uroa village. His calm and friendly nature coupled with his selfless desire to showcase his island to an outsider speaks volumes about the people of Zanzibar. I visited the island in the midst of its elections and Rajab ensured that I got into no trouble. Having him by my side, as I roamed the island, capturing images, gave me a sense of safety and comfort. I left the little island in the Indian Ocean with a promise to him that I would be back soon. 'Karibu whenever you are back'.
Zanzibar, Tanzania Nov2015