Tag Archives: Zanzibar

Live on Zanzibar – Saturday 10 December 2011 – Westaman Trio

7 Dec

Mtoni Palace Conservation Project

Po Box 992



T/ +255 777 430117

Forget the time, forget your map … Get lost in Stone Town

3 Oct

Besides spices, ivories and slaves, Zanzibar exported dreams. There are many European writers (British and French, in particular) who succumbed to its name, dreaming to see one day this distant island.

But, curiously, little of them came there. Then we thought strongly of this island, its spicy scents of the East, we imagined of exotic sultans of Persia, at the half-men, the half-gods, covered with gold and with precious stones, calmed in the warm vapor of harems.

In his book Five weeks in balloon, Jules Verne (who did not see the island) chooses Zanzibar as point of departure of his narrative of the crossing of Africa: “it makes a big business of
gum, ivory, and especially ebony, because Zanzibar is slaves’ big market. ”

For the poet Arthur Rimbaud, who became an adventurer in Ethiopia, this stabbing dream of Zanzibar took the shape of a quest of the impossible. He often spoke about it in his correspondence, but he never went to it.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Stone Town is a hotchpotch of cultures, architecture and languages. Over the centuries, Stone Town has grown from a small fishing village on the peninsula of Unguja’s west coast to a thriving town, with an extraordinary history. From as early as 150AD Arab, Asian and Persian traders sailed across the Indian Ocean to trade with the Bantu people, naming the Africa’s east coast as Zinj el Barr, meaning land of the black people, which later became Zanzibar.

Colonial rulers came and went, starting with the Portuguese in the 15th century who built a small settlement which later grew into Stone Town. They were ousted by the Omani Arabs
and the time of slave, spice and ivory trade began. Zanzibar became predominately Muslim, cloves and coconuts were Stone Town grown and sold in their tones and the influence of the Arabs became more strongly felt as Seyyid Said bin Sultan made Zanzibar the capital of the Omani empire.

The British created a colonial town using the creek as a cordon sanitaire between the old town and native town. All mud houses were transferred to the “Other Side”, thus creating a “Stone Town” on the peninsula. In the old town streets were named and houses numbered: streets were paved and lighted with street lamps: and efficient sewerage and sanitation systems were set up.

Medical facilities were expanded by the building of the Mnazi Mmoja hospital together with a horse-drawn ambulance.

The archipelago became a British Protectorate in 1890, with the Sultans implementing policy on a local level. To make colonial rule acceptable and cheap, the British retained the Sultan as a figurehead but most of the powers were in the hands of the British Resident. A small but efficient civil service was established under British officials, employing Indian and Zanzibari subordinate staff. Ultimately British power rested on the colonial police recruited largely from the mainland.

The British tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the diversion of Zanzibar’s trade to the mainland ports by declaring Zanzibar a Free Port in 1892, and in 1897 they abolished slavery. These events changed the basis of Zanzibar’s economy.

Following the revolution in 1964, Zanzibar became independent and joined with the United Republic of Tanganyika to form Tanzania.

Walking around Stone Town, you can see the impact of the different cultures on the buildings around you.

They built drainpipes into the walls of local homes only to come out again at the bottom of the wall to drain. Why did they do this? Because the streets were so narrow, they put the pipes
into the walls so no one would hit his head or catch his cart on the pipes as he walked by.

 Indian houses have courtyards behind the shop fronts and intricately carved balconies.

Many Indian traders were attracted by the commercial prosperity of Zanzibar during the 19th century. They built their shop-front houses along the narrow bazaar streets, selling textiles, provisions etc. The whole front of the house was occupied by the shop. It had a four-leaf Gujarati door which was strong but with little carving.

Initially these were single-storey houses, and the owner lived behind the shop. With greater prosperity residential quarters moved to the first floor. It had windows with semicircular lintels and colored glass. Wooden balconies were added to increase ventilation and light in the congested narrow streets.

Arab houses are characterized by their white washed walls, flat terraces and small windows to preserve the modesty of the women. The roof top walkways from house to house have been destroyed, so these days the women walk the streets, covered in diaphanous buibuis. Men sit on the barazas, the stone ledges outside the house, playing games, talking and greet visitors, much in the way they did a century ago. The barazas  also serve as raised walkways when Stone Town gets flooded in the rainy season. The walls of the houses are made from
coralline rock, which is a good building material, but erodes easily. Many of Stone Town’s 1 900 houses have crumbled beyond repair, whilst others have been beautifully renovated. Since Stone Town was deservedly declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000, the Stone Town Conservation Authority is working towards restoring the ancient town before these buildings are lost forever.

Many Omanis migrated to Zanzibar in the 19th centry. The richest set up clove plantations in the countryside and built their mansions in Zanzibar town, especially along the seafront. An Arab beyt was a massive multi-storied block with a flat roof and small windows. Residential rooms ran along the outer walls enclosing an inner courtyard. Veranda around the courtyard enabled women of the household to carry on their chores in privacy.

The Swahili built mud huts with the readily available building materials, such as sand, mud, stones and mangrove sticks and thatched with coconut palm leaves. By the 10th century they had developed their own stone building technology to build multi-storey houses using coral stones, lime and mangrove poles to support the ceiling. Swahili houses were designed to
facilitate social interaction near the entrance (daka) where the house owner entertained visitors, while guarding privacy of the household. The master bedroom was placed right at the back of the house and living and children’s quarters occupied the middle part of the house.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply… You are on Spice Island

1 Oct

On a Zanzibar spice tour you’ll find tropical fruits, spices and other rare species of plants. A spice tour is not only a tour but a rare experience to prove out why Zanzibar is referred to as the Spice Island. Guaranteed to awaken your senses, you will visit a spice plantation where you will have the opportunity to pick, smell and savor fruits and spices, packets of which you have probably seen on the supermarket shelf back home but not recognized before. It offers many fresh spices including cardamom spice, cinnamon spice, cloves, roots gingers, vanilla sticks, lemon grass, henna bush, ylang lang and anator , nutmeg and many others, and Zanzibar tropical fruits like, jackfruit (which can grow up to 45 kgs), pineapples, bananas, mangos, Malay apple.

Cinnamon, indigenous to Sri Lanka, is harvested by growing the tree for two years then coppicing it. The next year, about a dozen shoots will form from the roots.

Cinnamon is the queen of the spices, the roots you can use as Vicks on your chest when you have a bad cough, the bark you use for cooking and the leaves you mix with tea and hot water and it is beverage especially enjoyed during Ramadan in Zanzibar.

The branches harvested this way are processed by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark. The inner bark is then prized out in long rolls. Only the thin (0.5 mm) inner bark is used; the outer, woody portion is discarded, leaving meter-long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls (“quills”) on drying. Once dry, the bark is cut into 5–10 cm lengths for sale.

The bark must be processed immediately after harvesting while still wet. Once processed, the bark will dry completely in four to six hours, provided that it is in a well-ventilated and relatively warm environment.

Cardamom, one of the three most expensive plants in the world, Zanzibar, grows green cardamom. The pods house sticky aromatic black seeds, with a sweet taste. Cardamom loses its essential oil and flavor quickly and is best used fresh. It can be used as a digestive, breath freshener or to treat stomach aches and heartburn although on Zanzibar, it’s used to flavor pilau and chai.

After ousting the Portuguese, the Omani Arabs ruled over Zanzibar. Their influence wasn’t really felt until 1804, when Seyyid Said bin Sultan arrived from Oman and fell in love with this lush tropical island. He made Zanzibar the capital of the Omani empire and moved his court and palaces to the island in 1832. In 1818, he introduced cloves to the islands and they flourished in the sunshine and fertile soil on the west coasts of both Unguja and Pemba.

During the nineteenth century, clove mania hit the islands and the archipelago became the largest producer of cloves in the world. Coconuts, cloves, ivory and slaves powered Zanzibar’s economy, making it a centre for trade.

The word clove comes from the French word clou, meaning nail, which the buds resemble. Best time to harvest them is when the buds are green (they dry along the road), with the cap covering them intact. Cloves are used for pickling and can be found in Chinese Five Spice and garam masala spice mixtures. Clove oil is used in perfume, dental products, and cigarettes and can act as an antiseptic. Cloves are the the King of the spices.

Split open the apricot like fruit of a nutmeg tree and you’ll find a shiny brown nut, wrapped in a scarlet red lattice. Nutmeg only grows in equatorial regions, originating from the Moluccas and is used to flavour desserts. Taken in high quantities, it has narcotic and hallucinogenic effects. In Zanzibar, the red lace is dried and made into a tea to cure bridal shyness on a woman’s wedding night.

As you walk, you also see the fruits of the plantation, like that jack fruit tree, and you collect the samples of spices in your banana leave cone. But it is time now to taste the fruits Savella ornage, mandarine, banana, jack fruit, coconut…

Open your eyes… You are back to the spices you know.

Matemwe, fishermen village

23 Sep

The north east part of Zanzibar Island is known as Matemwe. This area is famous for its fine white sand beaches, the contrasting colours of the Indian Ocean and the beauty of the coral reef around the Mnemba Island. Matemwe borders a small fishing village where local fisherman set out on a daily basis in their traditional dhows passing close to Matemwe.

At Kandili, the owners and management believe we have a duty towards the people of the village.

  • Whenever possible we employ people from the neighboring villages
  • Fresh produce such as fish, some fruit and vegetables are sourced locally
  • Seafood is selected carefully so as not to deplete the reef or ocean

Wildlife of Zanzibar, ecosystem of Kandili

18 Sep

Zanzibar floral vegetation is categorized among the coastal forests of eastern Africa as the Southern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic and the Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic. Its faunal species are mostly small animals, birds, and butterflies.

The main island of Zanzibar, Unguja, has fauna which reflects its connection to the African mainland during the last ice age. The Zanzibar Leopard, an endemic subspecies of the island that may now be extinct, is conjectured to have evolved after the island became separated from the mainland at Tanzania consequent to a rise of the sea level at the end of the ice age.

The islands of Zanzibar have a large number of butterflies. Pete village, has the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre (ZBC), which was established in 2008. At this centre, local butter fly species are farmed for which training on the knowledge of their botanical and natural habitats are provided to a large number of farmers. This enables farmers to have additional avenues for income generation.

Asante gari ya muhishimiwa

17 Sep

Kangas are part of the swahili culture, they are very popular dresses in Eastern Africa. Writings alwasys appear on them and some of them are common Swahili proverbs. Majority of them, however, are just messages the wearer wishes to send across. It may be a message of love, caution, warning, reassurance, or just an act of self-expression.

That writing is particularly revealing of the day-to-day life in the rural areas of Tanzania:

Asante gari ya muhishimiwa

Thanks to the honourable’s car

And needs some clarifications: in the Swahili world leaders are always called with “Muhishimiwa” or “Mheshimiwa” title which is the translation for “Honourable” or “His/Her Excellency”. In rural areas you hardly find any cars save those government-owned cars given to district and regional commissioners, local concillors, members of Parliament, etc. These “honourable’s cars” help rural people in many ways including giving them rides (lifts) especially in case of emergencies. That’s why this kanga writing expresses gratitude to such a car.

Please follow the link to have more kangas writings: http://www.glcom.com/hassan/kanga.html

Welcome to Zanzibar Island, Karibu Kandili Villa!

15 Sep

The name Zanzibar refers to the archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of mainland Tanzania, made up of Unguja, the largest island, commonly called Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia and other smaller islands. Compared to the mainland, Zanzibar can often seem like a different country and that’s largely because the archipelago and its people have their own unique history and culture, influenced strongly by the traders and invaders over the centuries, from the Portuguese and Omani Arabs to the English.

Unlike mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar doesn’t have tribes. Instead local traditions are a fusion of different ethnic groups that settled on the islands, resulting in events like Pemba bull fights from the Portuguese and Mwaka Kogwa, the celebration of the Persian New Year. In recent years, Zanzibar has gained internationally prominence as a cultural centre, hosting the Sauti za Busara music festival and the Zanzibar International Film Festival, showing how the islands have succeeded in celebrating their heritage, while moving towards the future.

Welcome to Kandili Villa, Karibu Zanzibar Island!