Monday, June 24, 2013

Stone Town

Africa House
We bundled back into our dalalala and met other members of the group in Stone Town and went for a spot of lunch - not that most of us needed it. Now, trying to find something to eat in Zanzibar during Ramadan is something incredibly hard to come by but there are one or two restaurants catering to holiday-making westerners. Although restaurants were far to come by, the Zanzibar food market was bustling as ever and tlthough the smell of the fish market was pretty unappealing, the endless counters of spices and fruits made up for that. Mohammed (our guide) took us through the infamously winding streets of Stone Town to the famous sites such as Tipi's house (a notorious slave trader and plantation owner), Africa House (now a luxury hotel which used to be a members club for British expats) and Freddie Mercury's house - which was a person pilgrimage of mine. The central market of Zanzibar is essentially rows and alleyways of curio shops and souvenir shops but it still hasn't "sold-out" like other tourist trap towns. We rounded up the tour with a visit to the Slave Chambers before looping back to the coast to the House of Wonders. By the name it is not a surprise that you would think that the house is some kind of house of mirrors but actually it is only called House of Wonders because it was the first building in Zanzibar with electricity let alone a working lift (which ironically is now out of service). Nowadays it is Zanzibar's 'National' museum which is rather minimal except for the massive boat parked in the foyer. One of the best treats is the balcony on the third floor which offers wonderful views over Stone Town and the Indian Ocean.

Freddie Mercury's house
The Narrowest Street in The World (I presume)
House of Wonders

A group of us decided to stay in Stone Town for the evening while the rest went back to the hotel as we were promised a lift back at 8pm. Since we were leaving Zanzibar at 5am tomorrow with no chance of breakfast we planned ahead grabbed some mangos and ridiculously cheap spices back at the food market. I was under the delusion that I knew where I was going but this is Stone Town - no tourist knows their way around Stone Town. In the end you just have to follow your feet and see where you end up. The sun was setting but the smell of amazing food was rising from stoves set out in the street. Our feet began to respond to our stomachs as we searched for something to eat. We decided to follow the sunset as we knew that would take us to the sea and our pick up point but we ended up in the complete wrong direction. Serendipitously though we stumbled across an Ethiopian restaurant which looked very civilised for Stone Town but was just as welcoming as the rest of Stone Town. The menu involved choosing a selection of vegetable or meat stews which were served with a large pancake called an injera. The moment the food arrived was a special one: on the table was a wicker tangine and the waiter came along with a massive plate with the injera and several bowls of mystery stews we had ordered which he poured out one by one. The waiters then washed each of our hands by pouring warm water from a clay jug and handing us a glass of Tej which is a delicious honey wine. The injera was used instead of cutlery to scoop up the stews and we were all virtually silent until the plate was scraped clean ten minutes later. As a final courtesy the owner called our driver to get us picked up from the restaurant as the sun had set and we had no idea where we were. We paid and left a very large tip feeling very satisfied with life. The sad thing about finding a great restaurant in Stone Town is that you will probably never find it again but if you want to try for me it was called Abyssinian Maritim!
The Tej

We spent the drive home on the bus in awe of our day - well mainly our meal. Our driver joined in on our conversation and told us about himself and how he was about to get married as well as telling us facts about the area - such as the town of Tutu which served a short railway line between the Sultan's home and a spice plantation. I spent the rest of the drive gazing at the full moon out the back window before stretching out and falling asleep on the back seats taking a major swadge [Orcadian word for the rest after a big meal].

Back at the hotel we felt smug about our life choices and even more so when the rest of the group told us of their mediocre day and disastrous dinner at the hotel. The evening was a bit of a come down as it was spent packing and sorting out our hotel bills before getting back to our 5am time schedule.

View from the 3rd Floor

1 comment:

Aviott said...

Beautifully written. Redolent of place and time.