Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stone Town- Zanzibar

For our last full day of the trip the alarm clocks were back on as we had to wake up early this morning and head out to the airport to drop off Shevonne for her flights to London (we will be making the same trip tomorrow).  This was our first time leaving Villa Kiva Beach Resort in the daylight and I was not expecting to see a little shanty town right outside the gate.  The roads have been mostly good in Zanzibar and the majority of housing is a mix of cinder blocks or mud and sticks with either thatched or metal roofs.  We drove through little communities and towns along the way to Stone Town, which is the main city on the island.  As today is Eid al-Adha there were many people at or coming from morning prayers at the mosques as we drove past.

After saying goodbye to Shevonne at the airport we headed to Stone Town for our half day excursion by Regional Tours and Safaris.  We started the tour with our guide at the food market and wandered through the fish, meat, vegetable and spice sections.  Then we went to the site of the former slave market, which is now an Anglican church.  The slave market was run to sell East African slaves to Arabs in the Middle East and lasted until 1873 when explorers Dr. David Livingstone and H. M. Stanley helped to persuade the government to stop the slave trade (slaves to the United States and Europe came from West Africa).  The very small rooms where 50-75 slaves were held at a time before going to auction still remain, and there is a slave memorial of statues on the grounds that was done by Clara Sornas in 1997.

Next we wandered around the narrow streets of Stone Town, stopping at various buildings and admiring the ornate carved wooden doors along the way.  Indian style doors have rounded tops, while Arab style doors are rectangular.  Some of the hotels in the area are pretty nice and have interesting histories.  We also passed Mercury House, where Queen singer Freddie Mercury lived with his family until he was 9 years old.  

The Old Fort built by the Omani Arabs in 1700 still stands along with an outdoor music pavilion that was added to its grounds in the 1990s.  We also saw the outside of the House of Wonders, which is the largest and tallest building in Zanzibar and was the first to have electric elevators and piped water.  Unfortunately it is currently under renovation so we couldn't go inside.

The half day tour was quite interesting and I loved all the historic architecture.  As it was hot we bought an ice cream from one of the beach side stands and then headed back to Villa Kiva.  I spent the afternoon staying out of the sun and water since I didn't want to make my sunburn worse and repacked my luggage for the long journey home starting tomorrow.  At dinner the manager of Villa Kiva, Gabriella, gave us each little necklaces as a thank you and memento for staying at the resort, which was really nice of her.  It's hard to believe our African holiday has come to an end, but I've had a wonderful time on this trip.

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