Coming to Tanzania was the first time that I had such little knowledge about the language of a country. No grammatical familiarity, no knowledge of the language roots, no single words that I might know (well, aside from phrases and animal names popularized by the Lion King). It’s been slow going, on going, but I’m picking a few things up. I’m in Zanzibar this week on a language and cultural immersion program, and though it’s sometimes hard to concentrate on classroom learning when you sitting on a rooftop overlooking tin roofs and an ocean so blue that it’s almost neon (complain? me? never.), it’s been fun learning alongside a culture so rich in history and an island so beautiful.
I knew about Zanzibar’s history as a slave trade port, about its significance in being the original “spice island”, but what was left out of my historical knowledge was the fact that Zanzibar is, boiled down, simply a melting pot of an ex-country, a mix various cultures that, over time, created the Zanzibarians. Arabs, Hindi, Spanish, French, Asian, African people trickled in throughout the centuries and made their homes here, as Zanzibarians. This mixing of heritage means, or as they claim here, that there’s no signature nose, no signature hair, no signature build, but there are the signature eyes- the kind, smiling, twinkling eyes, ones that would make Tyra Banks proud. And though I had to see it to believe it, there is tremendous beauty, dignity, and strength in the Muslim religion that reigns supreme here.
And can I mention how extremely photogenic this place is? Seriously, look at these photos. Everywhere I turn my head I’m rendered breathless for a short moment. Beautiful, looming, carved doors. Narrow, stone alleyways. Muslim women, with their head coverings waving like flags in the cool(ish) island breeze. Muslim men, sporting their signature caps, embroidered with such intricate and colorful threads.
The nights here are my favorite- because of the close alleyways and oddly placed lighting, each street looks like it is a scene in a movie set. Getting lost in the alleyways, street lights dominate and the moon, however bright, is lost.
Our first day was this Monday, and as it is in most places, I spent much of it attempting to find my bearings. Which in this city, mostly means being able to figure out where in the twisted maze of narrow alleyways our hotel lies. We also took a quick tour of Stonetown – where though a zillion and one facts were recited I’ve promptly forgotten most of them, and visited the market, where a zillion and one more facts were spouted at us but I was so busy snapping pictures that I didn’t listen to a single word. Photos of the market will, dutifully, be posted soon!
In the meantime, these photos are some of my favorites from Day One in Zanzibar, and I feel like give a pretty good idea of how beautiful this place is. Lots of pretty blues, greens, and greys around here, don’t you think? If you’re interested to see more, click on over to flickr where I’ve got a whole set of photos!