Stone Town, Zanzibar 

09 February 2007 

In Tanzania, the only thing more dangerous than having sex without a condom, is having sex without condom or a mosquito net.

 

In my room in Stone Town, capital city of Zanzibar, my mosquito net has so many holes that it is about as useful as a rubber band against an STD.

 

Otherwise, the historic maze of alleyways that is Stone Town is wonderful. I’m living in the heart of its labyrinthine old section, which is so complex to navigate that locals say “don’t use a map, just wander around, and if you really need to get somewhere, catch a taxi”.

 

So far though my sense of direction has been pretty good – save two occasions: one time this afternoon hurrying home due to eating bad street food; and last night at 3.30am wandering home alone from a nightclub. I met three shifty locals though, who were eager to get me home so that they could smoke their weed in peace. It’s good to see I can rely on my navigational sense when it really matters.

 

The locals are friendly, helpful, and provide most of the viewing fun. Today in the marketplace, a crowd was gathered around watching as some guys hacked up a three metre shark and 1.5 metre stingray on the pavement.  Then I played soccer with some young kids, again being made to feel inadequate by their superior coordination (can you believe they can kick a soccer ball more than two times without it touching the ground or shooting towards a speeding donkey on the road!!).

 

The tourists are mainly backpackers seeking refuge from the perils of ‘Africa’ (note, it’s always referred to as the entire continent, not 49 different countries!) and NGO workers seeking refuge from doing good…There is also a large Italian retiree contingent: flown in direct on package tours, they cause some consternation among locals because they tend to visit Italian businesses over locals ones.  More worrying though, is that there seems to be some cultural norm they all adhere to which dictates, ‘The older, bronzer, fleshier and sagging one is, the younger you must try to look in your bathing attire’.

 

One exchange I had with the owner of a gelati store went as follows:

Me: Can I please taste the banana gelati?

Gelati: Banana? No, I’m sorry, banana is banana. It just tastes like banana. I can understand if you wanted to try ginger or peppermint, but not banana.

Me: Can I try the ginger please?

Gelati: No, it’s against our policy to offer tastes.

Me: Then why do you have a container full of tasting spoons?

 

She then raised her painted on eyebrows at me after I decided on a sorbet and a gelati IN THE SAME CUP!!!

Kids in Zanzibar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr2CiKvVV2Q