Monday, January 25, 2010

Travel - A place you probably have not seen, but you should - Spice Island, Africa

Yes, there is a Zanzibar. I am sure that many of you may have thought that Zanzibar is the fictitious invention of some fantasy writer such as Rudyard Kipling. Others may know it exists but could not tell you the continent where it is located.

Zanzibar in real life is just as exotic as we may conjure up in our imagination. It is one of the Spice Islands off the coast of Tanzania, which is, of course, located in East Africa. Many of us may dream of taking an African Safari, which is one of the great experiences on this planet. If you choose to visit some of the popular places such as Mount Kilimanjaro or the Serengeti, consider reserving about three nights and two days at this unique place.

Zanzibar was a slave trading mecca in the past. Hapless Africans would be captured on the continent and their new masters would carry them off to Zanzibar where the slaves would be auctioned off to be transported to destinations all over the world. Today the Slave Market includes the old auction block and holding quarters, which make a sobering statement on the cruelty of slavery.

But do not think of Zanzibar as a downer. Far from it. Zanzibar has been ruled by many peoples over the centuries including, Arabs, Asians and Europeans. As a result, the inhabitants are the product of a confluence of many cultures. The Old Stone Town appeared to me to be extremely authentic. The streets are so narrow that I felt that I could touch the walls on each side at the same time.

One night we took a meal on the open air roof of one of the local hotels. Although our own hotel was only about a quarter of a mile or less away from the restaurant, the concierge insisted that a bell boy accompany us to and from the restaurant for fear that we would be hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of alley ways that passed for streets. Needless to say that walk itself deserved four stars.

The meal was just as exciting. The starry sky was clearly visible as the guests sat on the floor surrounded by pillows to make us comfortable. The eerie music, the food which was delicious but largely mysterious, made that night one of the highlights of all of our travels.

Zanzibar produces many spices, including clove, vanilla, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg. and black pepper. Spice farms dot the landscape and make for a wonderful day of meandering through the countryside.

Finally, when you return home and someone at a cocktail party asks you where you have been, you can say “Zanzibar.” Most likely they will be speechless.

No comments: