Zanzibar is an amazing place, rich in history, culture and with some fantastic beaches, BUT, the tourism is partly ruining it. Western tourists with little respect for the local life, walking through the streets in hotpants and bikini tops, while most local women wear nikabs and burkas. Guys trying to immitate the western boys by drinking and smoking while trying to pick up the girls that pass by. Many times successfully too, especially among the older ladies. This was more the case in the resort areas by Nungwe Beach, where I felt like just another mzungu tourist when walking through the village. When asking for bananas they gave me a price ten times higher than what I would pay in Dar es Salaam, or more than twenty times the amount I would pay on the country side.
Paje Beach in the South West was not as bad. Here they had budget bungalows for backpackers right in the village and the locals seemed to be more of a harmony with the tourists. It was a quiet place to go for kitesurfing in the day and bonfires on the beach in the night.
Stone Town city was also beautiful with traditional arab architechture- especially the doors and balconies were something taken out of the Aladdin world. This is because Zanzibar was ruled by the Omani people and this is why you will hear the mosque prayers five times a day and see men walking around with fez like hats and their white thawb dresses.
The house of wonders
In Stone Town I got to sleep on the office floor of a travel agency called Monda Africa, which I had been refered to by a friend in Uganda. During my three days there I got to see the main sights of the Slave Market (very much like the ones in Western Africa), the Hammam, the house of wonder (because it was the first house to get electricity), the market and the Fodhani garden where boys were jumping from the docks and people were dancing capoira on the beach. Although it was good to walk around and pick a little seafood from each stand I found it to be a bit exhausting as people were pulling your arm and shouting at you at the same time to buy their food.
The Fodhani Food Market
All in all I think Zanzibar has been fantastic, but I hope for their future that they can preserve cultural heritage so that the island will just be another playground for western tourists.
Jaws Corner where you can drink tea and play dominoes with the locals
The Tanzanian Central Line was no different. It was old with curtains, furniture and wall coverings from the 70s. The carts were bumping up and down and swinging from side to side as the train was moving, making my mind drift off in the day and rocking me to sleep in the night.
A first class compartment in Africa
I was lucky enough to get to know Emmanuel, one of the police guards on the train. His friendship was easily bought with a beer and letting him watch movies on my conputer. He told me stories from how weekly they have robbers climbing on top of the roof to steal bags through the windows. One time the had taken a baby as it was mistaken for being a bag, but luckily they had found it in a train station aftwards.
Time was mostly spent sitting in the restaurant chatting with Emmanuel and others, drinking big, lukewarn Kilimanjaro beers for one dollar each and watching movies in my “first class” compartnent which was right next to the kitchen. Whenever someone were ordering dinner I could hear the chicken scream next door as they were slaughtered. With no fridges on board thats how you keep the meat fresh!
Total time was 38 hours which went by fast. Every stop I could run after the train and jump into it in the lsst second and I was allowed to go on the roof and hang out through doors and windows- you dont get to do that riding trains in Europe!
Kigoma is the kind of place I think that it would be nice to live in for a couple of years. It’s small, safe, but still has everything you need. There is a small expat community, but more in the humanitarian sector than anything else, so most locals have good respect for the Mzungus/white people living there and don’t just think of them as people who have come to exploit business opportunities like you would find in bigger cities.
Kigoma is also a historical city. The suburb of Ujiji has one of Africa’s oldest (yet least impressive) markets and is also the place where Stanley found Dr.Livingston under a mango tree in October 1871, two years after receiving the assignment from his editor in New York to find him. This is also where Stanley’s famous quote “Dr.Livingston. I presume” comes from.
Kigoma has also proven to me that you don’t need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars on safari tours in order to see the wildlife in Tanzania. When we went to Jakobsens, a Norwegian run beach guesthouse on Lake Tanganyika there were wild impalas and zebras on the way. When driving just a few kilometers out of town towards Uvinza we also saw hippos, baboons and chimpanzees, and the excitement of seeing them in the wild was much bigger than when spotting animals on the many safari trips I have done before.
Kigoma is also well connected, being on the border between Burundi, Tanzania and Congo and the next few days I will ride the Tanzanian Central Railway all the way from here to the Tanzanian coast.