2nd November 2010
AH and I have arranged a walking tour through Stone Town.
The centre of Stone Town consists of a maze of little streets like a Moroccan souk, so it’s great to walk with someone who knows what he is doing. (Yesterday, we mainly walked along the waterfront to avoid getting hopelessly lost.)
One of the first stops is the market where the locals buy their fruit, veg and fish. It’s just after 7am, but even now there are already flies buzzing around the fish.
I watch a man throw a whole bloody fish on the pavement, before picking it up and putting it in his wicker basket.
I also notice that at this time of the morning, the fish business is all men’s business. Just as well, as it’s really unappetizing...
We are taken to the former slave market, which is now part of a church. There is not much to see, but what we see is enough to make my stomach churn: Two small underground chambers for 75 women and kids on the one side and 50 men on the other side. They were locked up in that dinky, filthy place for no other purpose then to find out who were the strongest.
Each room had two stone benches with a gully running between them to dispose of the excrements during high tide...
It is a relief that there were people who tried to stop the cruelty. We learn about an English clergyman who bought slaves so that he could set them free. Livingstone is another example.
In the church next door the altar is built on the spot where there was once a whipping post for slaves, and the baptistry was apparently built on a spot where slave children died.
It strikes me that for ex-slaves who became Christians virtues like „long-suffering“ had tangible meaning.
We learn that Christian kids are still taught to set an example and love their enemies from a young age.
Both Muslims and Christians are telling us that relations between both groups are generally good in Zanzibar. But when we dig deeper, we find out that there can be conflict, for example if a Christian man wants to marry a Muslim woman: „You would have to make sure that her family would be far away of they would come for her.“ (No such problem exists if a Muslim takes a Christian wife.)
Our guide finds the song „Amazing grace“ particularly meaningful and is excited to find out more about the role of Newton and Wilberforce in abolishing slavery. We promise to send him more information...
We learn about 3 more useful fruits. One is jojoba, which is not only great as a moisturizer, but can also be eaten (It’s supposed to taste sweet, but AH found the fruit very bitter.) Then there is a fruit that turns into soap when it comes into contact with water.
And then there is the baobab fruit that is turned into a sweet. Our guide buys us a packet and if I had known how tasty it is, I would have bought more bags. The sweet looks and tastes similarly to raspberries, but with a spicy kick. The stone in the middle can be eaten, but only by those with strong teeth. (I have decided not to test the strength of my teeth.)...
We don’t bother going into the House of Wonders, so called because it was the first house with electricity, running water and a lift. The lift is no longer working due to lack of maintenance...
We do visit the Sultan’s palace instead. It’s strange to see some „tacky“ European furniture as part of the prized possessions and fascinating to hear about the princess who married a German businessman.
There is visible evidence of the rivalry between different sultan’s wives. Because wife number 1 went for a dining-room filled with traditional Indian furniture, wife number 2 went for a modern European look.
We also learn about the shortest war ever (45 mins) – England showed her displeasure at the Sultan’s dealings with the Germans by sending a bomb towards the House of Wonders – a case of action being louder than words...