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Down to Earth in Stone Town


sunny 32 °C

It is just a short flight from Arusha, the end point of our safari, to the capital of the Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Gone are the wide open pastures, the semi-arid deserts, and the forests and scraggy woodlands of Northern Tanzania. Gone too are the multitudinous herds of exotic animals and the packs of predators stalking them. In just one hour we have flown to another planet – a much hotter one - where the meagre thatched huts of the Maasai Boma...
...have been replaced by the masonry buildings of Zanzibar's ancient capital – Stone Town...
Stone Town is just the central part of a much larger Zanzibar City today, but beyond the old city boundaries there is little of significance for tourists. However, the old city is particularly interesting because of its tumultuous heritage. The islands off the east coast of Africa first attracted slave traders and merchants at the beginning of the 16th century and the Portuguese seized control in 1503 and held on until 1698. They erected many European style buildings from the local coral rock...
In 1698 the Sultan of Oman overthrew the Portuguese and brought both Islam and its distinctively Arabian architecturt to the islands. This was the 2nd Sultan's grand palace, the Palace of Wonders, on Stone Town's waterfront...
And this is the excellently maintained waterfront promenade...
Unfortunately, much of the old city is just a labyrinth of crumbling ruins – many held up by makeshift wooden bulwarks. The stonework of the colonial fortress is just about holding on...
The doorways of Stone Town are some of its best features. There are some 200 elaborately carved entranceways like this...
An Arab dhow returning to port after a days fishing made an atmospheric sight in the sepia light of the dying sun...
...But the stench and the chaos at the city's fishermen's wharf was considerably less romantic...
Sheila first came to Zanzibar on an Arab dhow from Dar-es-Salaam almost fifty years ago. The voyage took a day and a night on an open boat. Frequent high-speed ferries now make the journey in two hours and passengers are no longer allowed on the dhows.
The Sultan was overthrown by a revolution in 1964 when 20,000 islanders died. Zanzibar, under a socialist government, then joined forces with the newly independent Tanganyika to create the country of Tanzania. However, the Muslim influence has remained and for the first time in a while we were woken in the early hours by the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer from the mosques' minarets.

Posted by Hawkson 19:35 Archived in Tanzania

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You have another book here perhaps - your observations of the wildlife and your beautiful pictures.

by Janet Vickers

Some of the cityscape reminds me of Cuba. It's Rain Rain Go Away here - high winds too. Keep on truckin'.....

by joyce

What an adventure! A pleasure to read! Enjoy Africa! All the best from Shanghai, greetings from your Swedish table neighbours from Tea Cozy hotel in Yangshuo :)

by Jenny

Some wharf! Must be a sight when the tide comes in.
36 hours in an open boat! I would have died.

by R and B

A destination of many contrasts. Far cry from the breathtaking world of wild animals and natural andscape.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Sheila must have seen a lot of changes in 50 years. It would be interesting to hear the past views of a 18 year old girl.

by keith and helen

How fabulous and exciting your experiences seem to be. I can imagine that seeing the wildlife you photographed might bring on the same feelings and emotions as do our close-up enconters with the whales of the West Coast. And now Zanzibar! Just the name is enough to inspire our imaginations!

by Shelley Tillemans

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