Tanzania Part VII – Zanzibar


After our eventful boat trip to Zanzibar, we finally reached Kendwa Rocks Hotel, as recommended by our travel guide and other travelers. We still can not get used to the prices that hotels and lodges in Africa charge and what you actually get for the price. It just doesn’t compute. Kendwa Rocks was more of the same, five star prices at two star service, food, facilities and accommodation.


Zanzibar (/ˈzænzɨbɑr/) is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar) and Pemba. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site.

Zanzibar’s main industries are spices, raffia, and tourism. In particular, the islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper. For this reason, the islands, together with Tanzania’s Mafia Island, are sometimes called the Spice Islands (a term also associated with the Maluku Islands in Indonesia). Zanzibar is the home of the endemic Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey, the Zanzibar Servaline Genet, and the (possibly extinct)Zanzibar Leopard.

– Source: Wikipedia

Our boat dropped us off on the beach in front of the hotel. No one came forward to greet or assist us. Don’t get me wrong, we are not spoilt brats and we can carry our own bags, but a certain level of service goes with this kind of prices. We had to ask waiters where the Reception Desk was and they just waved their arms in a general direction up the hill, across scorching sand. After six hours in the sun we would have appreciated a cold juice and something to wipe our hands with. That’s what hotels in the rest of the civilized world would do, or maybe “civilized” is the operative word here…

Anyway, we schlepped our bags and hot, tired children up to reception where they insisted on keeping Hugo’s passport in return for a charge-/room card. That did nothing to make us like them more. In the end we decided to stay there just because we couldn’t be bothered to go look for another hotel which would probably be even more expensive.

The room was so-so, the beds were rock hard, but at least we had mosquito nets and air-conditioning. After two night here Sophia said she could not wait to sleep in her own bed again. Her “own bed” turned out to be her camping bed in our tent! My little city girl, all gone…

After discussions with other tourists and dive operators, we decided that we are not going to snorkel or scuba here, the prices took our breaths away. We would rather save the money and do our first fresh water dive in Malawi. And then go all-out once in Mozambique, a world class scuba diving destination.

On our second day here we went on a tour to Zanzibar Town, or Stone Town, with one of the restaurant waiters who doubled as a tour guide. Simba was a lovely young man, eagerly awaiting news from home as his wife was in labour with their first baby, a boy. She was at home with her parents in Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika, Simba’s hometown as well, and we could chat with him about the town as we spent a few days there earlier in the year. Simba was very knowledgeable and seemed intelligent, but we had to laugh when he said the baby is very big, his wife was over her due date and has now been pregnant for eleven months! I could not convince him that it might me 9 months and two weeks. The next morning at breakfast he came to greet us with a big smile, his son has been born and weighed 3,5 kilogram, his wife is just very tired because she was pregnant for 11 months…

Slavery in Zanzibar

Zanzibar was one of the largest slave ports in the vast Indian Ocean slave trade, which was dominated by Arab slave traders. The Arab slave trade originated before Islam and lasted more than a millennium. The slavers hacked their way from Bagamoyo on the Tanzania mainland coast into the African interior, as far west as the Congo. The slavers traded, bribed chiefs, pillaged and frequently kidnapped to meet the high demand for slaves. The newly acquired slaves were often forced to carry ivory and other goods back to Bagamoyo. The name Bagamoyo is derived from the Kiswahili words “bwaga moyo” which mean ‘lay down your heart’, because it was here that slaves would abandon any remaining hope of freedom or escape. Slaves who survived the long and perilous hike from the interior were then crammed into wooden boats called dhows bound for the slave markets in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

It is important to understand that in the context of the Arab Slave Trade, the term Arab represents a culture as opposed to a specific race. Many of the “Arab” slave traders such as Tippu Tip and others were indistinguishable from the “Africans” whom they enslaved and sold. All of the main racial groups in Zanzibar were involved in the slave trade in some way or other. Europeans used slaves in their plantations in the Indian Ocean islands, Arabs were the main traders, and African rulers sold prisoners taken in battle.

Although best known today as an island paradise, there are many prominent reminders of Zanzibar’s dark history in the slave trade around Stone Town and across the island. The market where slaves were confined in dark, airless, underground chambers before being sold still contains the chains bolted to the concrete. A moving memorial now stands where the market once was, reminding visitors and locals alike, of the atrocities committed on that very spot centuries before. Nearby, the Anglican Church contains a wooden cross carved from the tree under which the famous explorer and abolitionist David Livingstone’s heart was buried in Zambia. Along the island’s coast, several old limestone holding cells where slaves were hidden from crusading British abolitionists still exist. Once slavery was banned, the use of the chambers increased. Some still contain etchings and final messages left by slaves awaiting their sale and transport to a foreign land.

In 1822, the Omani Arabs signed the Moresby Treaty which made the sale of slaves to Christian’s illegal and provided other restrictions. Unfortunately, these restrictions were essentially ignored, and the trade continued to thrive. Then, in 1873 under the threat of bombardment by the British navy, Sultan Barghash was forced to sign an edict making the sea-borne slave trade illegal, and the slave market in Zanzibar was finally closed. Although, slaving was now officially illegal, it continued on the mainland of Tanzania until the defeat of the Germans in the First World War and Britain took over as the colonial power.

– Source: www.zanzibarpackage.com/slavery-zanzibar

Simba took us to various important landmarks, most had to do with the salve trade. The children were upset by the idea and some of the images, but then Gustav went ahead and told us that we also treat them as slaves, making them help us with dishes, pitching the camp, making their beds, and so on.

Note: a month later we were on a bushwalk in Malawi and Sophia asked what all the foreign palm trees were doing there. Our guide explained how the slave drivers planted it to mark the slave routes for future reference. Whether it is true, I don’t know, but it made sense as the plants were definitely not indigenous.

When we first arrived on the island, we went for a walk on the beach just as the sun was setting. Sophia made a date for the following afternoon to have her hair braided and Gustav wanted to buy a local soccer shirt, the women on the beach didn’t have his size and promised to have one for him the following evening. Then in Stone Town we met someone who tried to sell soccer shirts to us. Gustav didn’t want to buy any from him, as he didn’t want to break his promise to Sofia, the lady on the beach. We were very proud of him, but we could see that he loved the bright orange one, and told him that he may have it, we will buy one from Sofia as well. When we got back from our Stone Town tour, Gustav went back to the room to put the shirt away as he didn’t want to make Sofia sad…

At dinner the two young couples next to us were providing impromptu entertainment, singing and dancing to their own music, despite the restaurant also playing music (it was a very casual, laid-back restaurant on the beach in the sand). Not everybody thought it was funny, but Sophia was in awe and they invited her to their table, she went without hesitation. They turned out to be a group of friends and colleagues: three South Africans and an Aussie. One of the men and one of the women were “bush pilots” in West Africa, flying to and from oil rigs. The Aussie was an engineer between jobs and I still don’t know what the other girl did, but she and Sophia fell in love with each other, dancing and singing together.

The rest of us were invited to join their table. And then we got stuck there for the rest of the evening. Our Aussie friend decided to order a bottle of wine for me and Hugo. Just for the two of us, they were drinking a variety of other things, including but not limited to Jager bombs. And then we before we knew, we were also drinking the bomb, but I can’t stand Red Bull, so I took it neat after the second one. Ouch. Nothing else to tell…

For the trip back, we ordered the “fast boat”. Worth every cent! We were at the mainland in barely over an hour! Take the fast boat, people, always take the fast boat!

Back at Peponi there were new campers, a South African family of five, Oom Gerrie, his son Gerrie, Gerrie’s wife Sharlet, Sharlet’s sister Annelize and Annelize’s husband, Abrie. Wonderful people. Our kind of people! When we arrived, they said that we must be the “van Heerdens”, they saw our Cruiser and trailer but were wondering what happened to us. Sadly, they had to leave the next day and it was also time for us to pack up. Again. This would be the fifty-sixth time that we were packing up our tent…

Gustav and Sophia keeping busy with modelling clay.

While we were busy working, Poppy the Jack Russel, were hanging around. Gustav said that she looked sad (his words were that “her head is hanging”) because we are leaving, Carys agreed. She brought the children a lovely book about a Maasai boy as a farewell gift, they could not wait to read it.

In the end, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Peponi Beach, it is a lovely place with a beautiful campsite. We can recommend it.

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