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Destinations, Food, Zanzibar

Flavor on a Dime, Luxury on a Dollar: Favorites From A Dozen Days in Zanzibar

November 16, 2012

During our dozen days in Zanzibar, we managed to find delightful meals, new friends, comfortable accommodations, and perfectly pulled espresso shots, some for the price of a few pretty pennies, others at cost of shiny gold coins. For those planning a visit to Zanzibar, enjoy our mini cheat-sheet of favorite activities in Stone Town and beyond, and for those of you reading along for armchair travel, enjoy the peek at life on this colorful island. I so wish we could’ve packed you along in our suitcase!

Colorful Street Food – Fodorhani Gardens Night Market
Favorite fare: Coconut potato soup with fry bread dumplings: 1,000Tsh ($0.62 +/-)

This outdoor market on the Stone Town waterfront crawls with visitors looking for a bite and vendors looking for a mark. Strike one on the grilled octopus (especially compared to octopus later in the trip), but absolute home run on the coconut potato soup Ted learned about from a friendly fellow named Ahmed.

Freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice; grilled octopus and seafood galore Continue Reading…

Destinations, Food, Photography, Zanzibar

Cooking Octopus Curry with A Woman Named Peace

November 10, 2012

Coconut palms, mango trees, citrus fruits, rice and spice and fish. Turmeric, vanilla beans, hot chilies, black pepper, and cinnamon curls…

Zanzibar cuisine.

When we arrived on the island, a spice tour and a cooking lesson were my two highest hopes. Rather than find a touristy cooking lesson in Stone Town, I waited to look for a teacher until we left the city and settled into our spot an hour east, on the beach near the little town of Bwejuu. I’d read about a project in a neighboring village where local women taught cooking lessons as part of a grass-roots community development project, but as it turned out, I didn’t even have to look that far to find exactly what, or rather who, I was hoping for.

Removed by sea and time from the hazy city of Dar es Salaam (a gritty place on mainland Tanzania, ironically bearing the Swahili name Haven of Peace), a woman named Peace sits inside a woven-palm-walled hut on the white sands, selling her wares, saving her earnings, and offering kindness to strangers like me. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Musings, Photography, Zanzibar

Sandy Beaches Sell Postcards and Plane Tickets

November 6, 2012

We haggle over an hour long bus ride, will it be five thousand shillings or three?

We dicker, we hand over crinkled bills, we ride.

On a daladala, normal shifts.

Boxes and bags and bodies cram together in a metal shell unfit for road use by any and all US standards. Smells of sweat and burning oil mingle. Window glass balanced in rubber seals rattles as we ride, framing views of an island changing shape before our eyes.

“Computer training center” one sign says, before we pass another mud brick house with leaky thatch roof.

Bikes and cattle share the pavement. Coconut palms and banana trees lean away from us and toward the afternoon sun.

Between shores, the heart of the island beats.

Generations long since used to alien visitors seeking spice and spice of life watch another load of tourist overtake a load of produce. Dollars and cents.

Crossing from one coast to another, I wonder.

Who pays for paradise?

Whose normal is this, anyway? Continue Reading…

Destinations, Featured Places, Food, Zanzibar

Tasting Zanzibar: Dinner in Stone Town at Emerson Spice Hotel

November 4, 2012

We found ourselves at sunset in Tanzania, making that upward, upward climb, not pursuing Kilimanjaro’s summit, mind you, but following the wooden stairways winding skyward to the rooftop restaurant at Emerson Spice Hotel in Zanzibar.

My hopes for spice revelations in Zanzibar briefly went up in smoke after our disheartening spice tour…but the flavors and atmosphere of a magical night at Emerson Spice high above Stone Town’s skyline effortlessly resurrected the romance of our East African dream. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Food, Musings, Zanzibar

Cardamom Spice Tea: Bitter and Sweet on a Spice Tour in Zanzibar

October 31, 2012

“Zany Zebras Zoom Through Zanzibar!”

Alphabet cassette tapes of the 1980s pained a wild and colorful picture of a place in my childhood mind. Twenty years later, I heard Lynn Rosetto Casper’s voice through my iPod headphones. She was chatting with a Splendid Table listener who had recently returned from Zanzibar, and my imagination again filled with scenes of spice plantations and market stalls. I could almost smell the coconut and cinnamon and cardamom spice as Lynn rattled off recipes, and I was smitten by the sounds of such an exotic trip…

I remember Ted and I sharing travel planning dates at Townshend’s Tea in NE Portland, drinking alternating pots of highland, kashmiri, and masala chai…plotting our great escape. When we pinned down our travel route and sorted flights, this Tanzanian island off the eastern coast of Africa moved from fantasy to reality, and I could barely contain my excitement at the thought of tracking my favorite spices back to their origins.

My highest hopes:

1) Seeing my kitchen pantry spices growing in fertile soil under tropical sun

2) Bringing my cookbook-world to life by learning a recipe or two from someone living on the island

Like most visions of the unknown, reality came in different shades. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Photography, Zanzibar

Arrival in Zanzibar

October 30, 2012

After passing through Tanzanian customs chaos and spending one thought provoking night in Dar es Salaam, we arrived on Zanzibar Island via ferry boat and let Stone Town overwhelm our senses.

Blue oceans and bright saris.

Loud voices calling “Jambo!” and singing “Hakuna Matata” through the streets.

Hot sunshine blazing down.

Spiced coffees, spiced teas, spice tours. (Oh, spice tours. Wait for the next post…)

Flavors and colors and moments on the east coast of Africa… Continue Reading…

Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Musings, Zanzibar

Descending into Dar es Salaam…

October 26, 2012

Outside the plane window stretched a vast expanse of blackness punctured by glowing pinpricks of yellow and orange. Not twinkling stars in the sky: backyard and street-front fires.

We arrived in Tanzania after sunset, after nature’s light-switch flipped.

Descending into the Dar es Salaam airport seemed surreal. On the approach, I could make out suburbs entirely void of electrical streetlights or floodlights or illuminated windows. Instead, flames licked toward the dark sky from old barrels and brush piles.

It felt like another world. Continue Reading…