Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania
The ferry to Zanzibar leaves from the docks at the bottom of the town (fast and slow boats) and we arrived in Stone Town after a smooth 1.5 hours boat ride. Zanzibar has an interesting history, there are some magnificent palaces, a fort, venetian houses, a night seafood market, a teeming daily market, an old slave market, a small medina and many small alley ways to get lost in. But it is the town’s front with its busy harbour and beach front where boats come and go all day and the spectacular sunsets that dows sailed across in silhouette at night that I loved most. Stone Town has a laid back attitude but being hassled to buy tours, accommodation, clothes and trinkets is part and parcel of a holiday here. We learned that the best way to deal with unwanted attention was to stay calm and use banter to avoid being hassled. Usually after a small exchange of they left us alone. Losing your cool often makes things worse so try humour first. We left Stone Town after a couple of days and headed for the coast. Taking a taxi ride through the outskirts of Stone Town made me realise that most of the residents here still live in poverty with no running water or electricity, rubbish litters the paths and stagnant water lies in shallow puddles alongside houses with no windows. Children wear ragged clothes and run bare foot in the dirt. I try to bear this in mind when someone wants to sell me something. Ya Ya, our driver, filled us in on some of the issues about big resorts and government policies that are making it harder for small businesses run by locals to operate in the tourist industry. Many residents are on wages far less than the legal minimum wage whilst employers are charging astronomical amounts of money for accommodation. Permits are required to transport tourists beyond the stone town, cost money and police checks are in place to enforce this . All this information coupled with the scenes I witnessed resolved me to spend my money with local people rather than in the big resorts. We arrived at our beach hostel a whole lot more knowledgable about life in Zanzibar and this was to continue the more we met some wonderful local people.