On my second full day in Stone Town, I decided to sign up for one of the many tours that were advertised at the reception desk of the guest house where I’m staying. The descriptions of each were definitely written by a person whose first language is something other than English, but I was able to decipher the jist of things, and thought the spice tour sounded like it’d be interesting. Specifically, the blurb told me that it:
“Comprise some historical monuments drive to the countryside where you can see variety of plantations and herbs, tasting all the fruits and spices and have lunch where all spice you see on the way you on experience them. Heading to Persian bath, Mangapwani Slave Cave and spend hour on the beach.”
After paying my $12 to the guest house manager, I waited for one of the employees of the company that ran the tour to come pick me up. They arrived shortly after 9am, and escorted me and two other people who were also staying at the Flamingo to the minibus that would be transporting us up island. I ended up sitting beside a fellow Victorian, who had just finished a few months of teaching English in Arusha, and was spending two weeks on Zanzibar with her parents. Small world! Before doing the spice tour itself, we stopped to look at a Persian bath that a sultan had had built for his wife, in 1914. Inside, it contained literally the world’s smallest “swimming” pool. It was basically a space large enough for a very thin person to submerge themselves up to about their waist in water. From there, we headed over to the spice gardens, which were great – fascinating to see what the various spices look in their “natural” form. I’ve been struck a number of times over the past few months when I’ve come across fields or plants here that grow food we eat in Canada, but would be hard pressed to identify when it’s not sitting in a grocery store. Everyone else in my group wasn’t much better than I was at correctly guessing the names of the various spices that our guide, Naaor, would show us.
Since looking at the photos of the spices is probably far more interesting than reading descriptions of all of them, I’ve posted a Flickr album with pictures of the various plants and trees we learned about. I’ve set it up so that you can test your own knowledge of which spice is which, if you’re so inclined. There’s also a few pictures of the Mangapwani slave cave that we visited after lunch, as well as the beach where we went swimming.
The slave cave has quite the interesting (and disturbing) backstory: it was originally built for storing slaves, and its construction has been attributed to a slave trader named Mohammed bin Nassor Al-Alwi. Boats from the mainland would unload their human cargo on the nearby beach, and the slaves would be kept in the cave before being taken to Zanzibar Town for resale, or to plantations on the island. In the late 1800s, after a treaty was signed that officially abolished slavery on Zanzibar, the cave was used as a place to hide slaves, since the slave trade continued illicitly on the island for many years. In a somewhat jarring change of scenery, we headed from the cave to a nearby beach to go swimming. The beaches in Zanzibar are all insane – white sand, turquoise water, and no seaweed to be found (at least at any of the places I’ve been). I was, however, used to swimming in lakes and rivers in Uganda, and completely forgot that it would be saltwater I was diving into. Needless to say, the mouthful of water I accidentally swallowed cleared up that mistaken assumption in a hurry…
We arrived back in Stone Town by mid-afternoon, and I spent a leisurely evening reading, and eating dinner from one of the many street vendors near my guest house. Pretty great way to spend the day.