Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday, Mar 4th, Zanzibar Serena Inn


Pat and I were poolside, basking in the setting sun as those ancient single-masted dhows sail by that you imagine once were carrying Arab and Indian merchants to these shores.  Hundreds of young Zanzibar men were wading in the water, enjoying a Sunday afternoon at the beach, and celebrating the set of three-foot waves which could be seen for minutes moving toward the shore.  The western shore of Zanzibar faces Africa, so you wouldn’t expect any swell activity.  But something stirred out there, and the shouts from those on the beach brought me to the hotel’s perimeter.  Out on the horizon, dark blue lines approached, and each swimmer wanted to be with their friends in the water and ready when the waves arrived.  Security guards radioed each other, alerted by the noise on the beach.  Hotels guests wondered what was up until they saw the waves.

To say the conclusion was anti-climatic is an understatement.  But there was a wisp of jealousy I felt, standing poolside above them, as swimmers feverishly swam toward the shore riding the crest of energy from out of the distant sea.

Today, we visited a spice farm.  The plantations which grew these treasures imported from the east, brought by the traders whose main business was slaves.  But they liked their fruits and spices, and all grew well in this climate.  As our hosts guided us through the forest of trees and plants, they would cut some leaves, mash them up in their fingers, and give us a few to smell and hazard a guess as to what it was.  Next, they'd find the fruit, nut, or root which was often they spice.  About half the time, Pat would guess what we were seeing.  But most were amazed at where things they used in everyday cooking came from.  A small cup woven of leaves was given to each lady, to build a cornucopia of spices and fruits.  Toward the end of our journey through the forest, a young man demonstrated how coconuts were collected.  Climbing an 80 foot tree by binding his feet together, he sang to us as he scampered up the tree and back, trimming some dead palm fronds, and retrieving some ripe fruit.  Later, in a covered table area, we sampled some of the fruits and coconut juice, and were given necklaces, ties, and hats made of palm leaves.   We bought some spices, it was a very educational visit, and the staff of the spice farm was very hospitable.

This evening, we had dinner at the African House Hotel.  Previously the Old English Club, it was the site of many a gathering of explorers for over 100 years.  The photographs on the wall are worth the visit, but the atmosphere and elegance of the terrace dining under the clear night sky made it even more precious.

We'll be heading to the other side of the island tomorrow for two days.  The word is that there is no wifi available there, so we may be out of touch until we get home.  There's a stopover night in Paris on the flight home, so I may be able to post from there.  

It's been a great trip, despite my hearing loss and colds we're carrying over the past week.   Hope all of you have enjoyed the posts and photos.

To see the photos from today, click on:  Sunday, Mar 4th, Zanzibar Serena Inn    

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