If you draw in a few lines on a map of Stone Town you could make a pretty sweet maze. The buildings are packed tight and angled like forgotten puzzle pieces. The white paint flaking off like paper mache. The streets are filled with Wazungu, white people. I am surrounded by white locals, Swahili speaking Canadians. To attain the local admission price to a tortoise sanctuary on Prison Island, the concierge tests our vocab. The sanctuary is like an old folks home for sea turtles. The hundred-year-old animals have been inhabiting the island paradise for nearly a century.

Stone Town was the last post to abolish slave trade. An Anglican church has been erected over the old slave market grounds, the pulpit standing where the whipping post used to be. The slaves were packed like sardines, fifty to seventy strong into bedroom sized rooms, each with two windows the width and length of a child’s forearm– the only air entering the room. These horrid living conditions were meant to test strength, as were the whipping posts. The strong survive and achieve a good selling price. The weak are put back in their holding rooms until the next trading day.

Up on the north shore of Zanzibar we stay in bungalows on the beach. At night a halo lines the ocean’s horizon, little candles floating in their boats. The days here are patient; the hours possess their own geography. A new country reveals itself as the moments pass. I am discovering Tanzania, slowly.


One Response

  1. Thank you.

    All I knew of Zanzibar was a quote from Muppets Treasure Island where Captain Smollet says, “I was on a ship headed for Zanzibar. I got cold feet.”

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