House of wonders
night market food
Our first day in Stone town, the capital city of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is the whole archipelago and the island we are on is actually called Unguja, but everybody calls it Zanzibar island.
Stone town is an old city, although most of the buildings are barely 150 years old. It was only a small village, until the Omanis came in and turned it into a wealthy trading post. They built a fortress in 1701, but did not built much else that lasted till the mid 1800’s. Then they started building with coral stone from nearby islands. For almost 60 years Stonetown was booming, making big money of the slave trade and the spices.
Things changed when the slave trade was banned and the British came in at around 1900. The Omanis still owned the land and the resources, there was even still a Omani Sultan, but the English took control. The African population was not happy, and it all came to a head a few weeks after they had gotten independence. The British had stepped aside, and now they would take it out on the Arab minority. In the 1964 “Revolution” more than 12.000 Arabs and Indians were killed in one night. Nothing here in Stonetown to commemorate this event though.
The old buildings are stunning. The Dispensery, the House of Wonders and old post office.
Strange mixes of Arab and European styles.
The most stunning part of the city must be the wooden doors though. The little winding alley, to narrow for cars, keep popping up with little gems. The doors are heavily decorated with flower patters, geometric designs and big metal spikes. All the carvings are symbolic and the doors were made to show of your standing in society.
As Stonetown got Unesco listed a few years ago, a lot of the bigger nicer buildings are being done up. Hopefully they will also help to preserve the doors.
We wander around and make it to the old fort. Easy to find along the water front. Quite a small fort though, and inside seems to be all tourist shops.
Walking the streets around, we come across a shop with a difference. The Coins shop.
Out side we admire the little display case with their wares, and are quickly ushered in by the girl running the place. Her and her husband have started this business. The coins are stunning. Old or new coins from around the world, but very intricately carved out. Very detailed work.
We also find out that she has some rooms for rent upstairs and have a look. The place we are in at the moment is ok, but there is more style about this place. (And it is cheaper.) It is two adjoining rooms in an old traditional Zanzibari house. Beautiful woodwork and a lot of space. The place is not finished yet though, as she is only just staring to rent it. We would be the first people staying. We will think about it.
For dinner we decided to try the famous Forodhani gardens at the water. Here they have an open air street food market every night after sunset, selling the catch of the day. The setup is beautiful with the last of the sunset and the light of the different stalls. Walking up, we are instantly grabbed by a local to have a look at his stall. The first one, so we do. Proudly he shows of his wares. Prawns, Crab, Shark, Red Snapper, Octopus, Oysters, Mussels and lost more seafood, mostly on sticks like sate.. Also chicken and for the vegetarians, bread, fried banana and different fried local fruits. The prices are not cheap though. From 3.00 shillings to 12.000 depending what is or the stick. We thank him for showing us, and leave to have a look at the other stalls. This is our first time here, and want to see what is on offer.
As it turns out, all the stalls sell basically the same, for about the same prices. They are very competitive about getting customers though, up to a point where we are surrounded by men yelling at us that their food is better than the rest. This is not fun, and we try to escape to a quieter area. No such luck, as they all know we have not spend our money yet..
Eventually we lose them and we can catch our breath. Why do they make it such a struggle to just look around? From a distance we can see that there are other shops, beside the seafood places. Pizza, Shoarma, coffee and juices.
Hungry and determinate not to be intimidated again we dive back in. Heading for one stall in front of us, we make it there and go through the whole routine of showing of the wares again. Here they also do mega balls of falafel. Anna is happy! Falafel and garlic bread for her, while Andrew has some fish and chicken. All served with salad. We find a seat and share our goodies. Pretty nice!