Last week we started Sida’s (a volunteer in Tanzania) blog on the A to Z’s of Zanzibar. In case you missed it, click here! We pick up right where we lest off with the letter N.
N is for Nungwi
Nungwi is a beautiful beach on the northern tip of Zanzibar with white sands and foaming, white waves. The downside (or upside, depending on how you look at it), is that it’s very commercialized, breaming with backpackers and has an abysmal village life. During our weekend trips there, we stayed at the DoubleTree Resort, which really won us over with its luxurious flushing European toilet and working shower.
O is for Octopus
While you can get octopus almost anywhere in Zanzibar, the best places are usually the sketchiest looking, involving dark alleys and shifty looking grills. That pretty much sums up my experience with local food. The best tasting ones are not to be found on candle-lit and cloth clad tables. You have to dug deep into the seedy underbelly of the city (aka around the corner to our YCI office in Mwanakwereke) to arrive at the truly delicious.
P is for Parasailing
During a weekend getaway to Nungwi, I tried parasailing. Although the experience wasn’t as exhilarating as I thought it was going to be, it was quite relaxing and I had a panoramic view of the sunset.
Q is for Quran
The Quran is the holy book of the Islamic religion. As a result of its time under Arabic rule, Zanzibar is still a predominantly Muslim society. This is well illustrated by the fact that no matter where you are, there will probably be a mosque within a 5 mile radius of your current location. There are prayer calls five times a day and people often arrange their schedules around the times that they have to go for prayer. Another thing to note that appropriate dress is more important here in Zanzibar than the other locations due to religious reasons. To be respectful, make sure shoulders/knees are covered and that cleavage is minimal.
R is for Rojo
Rojo is a popular local snack consisting of a curry soup mix and available only in Zanzibar. The ingredients of the soup can differ depending on personal preferences but a typical rojo bowl would include kachori (bean dumpling), potatoes and some kind of mishkaki (meat skewer).
S is for Stone Town
If Zanzibar is a person, then Stone Town would have to be its heart. You can hear it bustling away in any hour of the day, pumping out an endless stream of tourists and hacklers. For the architecture enthusiast, Stone Town is a heaven of Arabian, Indian and African designs filled with mansions, palaces, bazaars and gift shops. Like Venice, Stone Town is best explored lost, wondering along the endless labyrinth of shops and restaurants.
T is for Tanzanite
Tanzania is the only place in the world known to produce Tanzanite – a blue gemstone known for its brilliant color. Tanzanite can be easily and securely purchased in Zanzibar if you stick to legitimate stores, but be prepared to pay the price. Most of the tanzanite smuggling occurs in Ashura so that’s usually where the cheapest prices can be found. However, the many shades of tanzanite make scamming especially easy, so make sure you do your research if you chose to obtain your tanzanite from street vendors.
U is for Umbe
Umbe is the Swahili word for mangoes, which were sweet, tangy and available in abundance during my time here. Zanzibar is a heaven for fruit-lovers, especially those of the exotic variety. Most fruits are seasonal, but staples like bananas are available year round. From January to March, the fruit scene is dominated by mangoes, pineapples and jackfruit.
V is for Voices of Wisdom (Sauti Za Busara)
Sauti Za Busara, which directly translates into “Voices of Wisdom”, is one of the biggest music festivals in East Africa. Artists from the mainland and beyond travel to Zanzibar to perform concerts that brings together locals and tourists alike in the open-air amphitheatre of the Old Fort. The genres of music performed are diverse and covers everything from traditional Taarab to Bongo Flava. This four day event is definitely worth checking if you’re here in February.
W is for Wali (rice)
Zanzibarians hold a certain pride in being different from the rest of Tanzania and one of the differences I noticed most profoundly is the lack of ugali (corn paste) in their diet. Instead, rice is the staple for meals in traditional households, often accompanied by some kind of stew. I was told by locals that this practice gives Zanzibarians a reputation for being “soft” (aka weak) as rice doesn’t contain as much carbohydrates as ugali.
X is for Xtreme water sports
With its crystal waters and coral reefs, Zanzibar is an understandably popular destination for scuba divers. I did my first dive off the coast of Kendwa and although no sharks were spotted, the novelty of experience made it quite exciting. If scuba diving is not your thing, there is plenty of other water sports that can be easily done off most beaches, these include but is not limited to wind surfing, snorkelling and speed-boating.
Y is for YCI
I’m sure if you are reading this blog, you must have some idea of what YCI does so I’m not going to go into details. However, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the YCI people who have helped me along the way, especially Mr. Shiab, our lovable program manager in Zanzibar. I could not have done this without his endless support and great advice.
Z is for ZANGOC
ZANGOC, short for Zanzibar Non-Government Organization Cluster, is YCI’s partner organization in Zanzibar. Currently, ZANGOC has about 40 member organizations in Unguja and Pemba. Although the initial reason for the inception of ZANGOC is to unite NGOs that work with HIV/AIDs in Zanzibar, the issues addressed by their member organizations has now broadened to comprise of everything from sanitation in rural communities to gender issues within the workplace.
-Sida Bai, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2012