I sit at a wide wood table, placed next to an open doorway. Outside, a few feet away, shopkeepers and worshipers scurry by. It’s Friday- for many, the holy day. I’m in Stone Town, the old center of Zanzibar Town, trying to write a research paper draw from a very different time and place in my own lifeline. Stone Town, needless to say, distracts me with every sound, smell, and sight.
This place is the heartbeat of Zanizbar, the home of the bustling port where trade has flourished for many hundred years. Stone Town itself is a small area of the city, buildings sagging into each other, tethered with thousands of meters of electrical wires, two floors high in some places, more than five in others. Once inside the maze, maps will hardly help you. Jessica and I wind through streets, ambling until we find what we are looking for, never exactly sure where we will emerge from the maze. When you step out, the ocean breezes hit you, a change from the corridors that lock out the air.
The place where I sit and try to write: Zanzibar Coffee House hotel & cafe
The layers (some decaying) of Stone Town
Beside the port: Container ships, cruise vessels, dhow fishing boats
Stone Town from above; minaret and church towers visible
The Palace Museum
Browsing the wares at the spice market
Orange silk tents replaced with plastic tarpaulin at the spice market
Sometimes, you cannot find an outlet and you walk around, as if caught in a cycle, taking the same turns and wondering why it all looks so familiar. Sometimes it feels like Venice, Taipei, Warsaw. Sometimes I imagine I’m in a whole other place, one I haven’t been to- yet. Layers of history and culture form like sedentary rock, African and Arabic and European, stewed together with the chaos of Asian back alleys, a less frantic Kowloon. A city of so many places. So many directions and distractions.
The doors tell stories: Arab or Indian
My Stone Town street style (with Rwandan pants and a Polish scarf)
The Emerson Spice Hotel: Where we enjoyed a fancy rooftop dinner
Usiku mwema / Good night!