Wed Oct 26 07:56:25 SAST 2016

Island of dreams and myths

By Gugu Sibiya | Nov 10, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I AM SITTING at my desk trying to find inspiration amid the concrete jungle I am facing, but my mind keeps straying back to that magical island off the Tanzanian coast in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

I AM SITTING at my desk trying to find inspiration amid the concrete jungle I am facing, but my mind keeps straying back to that magical island off the Tanzanian coast in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

I have just returned from a glorious week in Zanzibar. After the in-your-face poverty that characterises this paradise on earth, I keep asking myself, how is it that people can have so little and yet so much?

I suppose it's that inherent ubuntu children of the continent suckle from those huge, accommodating breasts of mother Africa.

That's why sharing is second nature to us. Instead of lamenting the obvious, the Zanzibai have become extremely creative and resourceful.

Knowing the craze that follows the myths of the Masai man, young lads, ordinary islanders, have taken to being Masais by day, regardless of their vertically challenged heights.

Foreign women fall over themselves to taste the delicacy the men are supposed to have been endowed with.

Most of the time there is no communication because they speak KiSwahili, the official language, while their pursuers couldn't care less.

Horizontal activities have never needed translation! All a woman needs is to see a tall, proud, agile Masai whose attributes hold the promise of delivery, thus fulfilling all fantasies.

Our first night was spent dancing the night away at an Arabian-themed evening on the beach. We watched backing singers from a band with their charismatic leader, shaking their waists like they had no bones. This was followed by poor music from an uninspiring DJ.

The following days saw us alternate between the three restaurants in the hotel.

The food was scrumptious and inviting and the ever amiable waiters on their toes.

After a fiasco at the shoot, where we were accused of making a lot of noise, we were suddenly transformed into tourists.

The crafts that adorn the various markets, especially the most known one in Stonetown, the old section of Zanzibar, left us breathless. I am talking about unique earrings, bracelets, sculptures and colourful kangas.

This time around, I was staying at the eastern part of Zanzibar, at Pwanimchangani, home to one of the most beautiful lodges, The Dreams of Zanzibar. We were guests of Tropika.

Aside from the gobbling of sumptuous meals and guzzling liquor that was flowing like biblical times, when Jesus would just turn water into wine. It never stopped!

In between, we also took the historical and beautiful sights of the picturesque island of Nguja, the biggest among the cluster of islands that make up Zanzibar.

I was moved when I come across the relics of slavery at an Angliacan church. The horrors of the era should never be forgotten.

The old fort is now used mostly for festivals.

Looking bleak without the artists, it nonetheless had the usual hawkers. And across the road, the children were swimming in the dirtiest part of the ocean. But not even the maze that characterises the residential and market area of Stonetown could cheer us up.

Our mood lightened up when we stopped at Mtoni Marine for lunch. The ocean and watching the ships coming and going to distant countries during a walk on the beach cheered us up.

The next day we visited a spice farm with all the herbs used in Zanzibari cuisine.

Changu Island, better known as Prison Island, saw us on dhows on the high seas, observing 159-year-old tortoises in their colony.

They look eager to feed from you when you give them spinach but as Bianca le Grange found out, they bite when you stick your finger in their mouths.

On the other side of the island is a prison from the days of slavery. I actually stood at the point of no return, an opening to unknown destinations where cruel slave traders used to await them in the dark with their ships of death.

Antonio Muchave, Sowetan's ace photographer, and I slipped away with our local friend Juma. He took us to the northern part of Zanzibar. It's all white sands, clear blue and turquoise sea, where you can see deep into the ocean. The still uncluttered area is Kendwa.

Walking on the picturesque beach is heavenly. We connected with nature as we saw rock formations creatively moulded by years of kisses from the ocean.

When I set foot on the beach and walked into the ocean with water up to my waist, I knew my mind would always travel back there for peace and reflection.

Juma was a good host who showed us life in the predominantly Muslim area.

The people are friendly and time just stands still. Walking in the village, arousing curiosity among the locals, greeting them in KiSwahili and being rewarded with dimpled, innocent smiles is a picture deeply etched in my mind.

As we headed back to the hotel, we were all quiet, lost in our thoughts, reflecting on an extremely pleasant day. The red blob of the sun nestled on the horizon, green trees and red, meandering roads beckoning one is a memory never to be forgotten. I can still hear Juma's reggae music in my head.

The gala dinner on the beach on the last day was a fitting end to an enchanting week.

It was made even more special by Loyiso playing the piano and singing his soulful ballads; Tasha Baxter showcasing her talent and versatility; along with Speedy, who is gifted, stylish and seems to have found his niche in eclectic Afro sounds.

They blew us away.


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