By Michelle Madina Sow-Jeanty
From the small plane taking me from Dar Es Salaam to Zanzibar, I admire the endless blue tones of the Indian ocean. The view is absolutely breathtaking and I can imagine Zanzibar.
Zanzibar wonderland… Zanzibar a small island, part of Tanzania, located in East Africa… Zanzibar also so oriental I could imagine the tales of Arabian nights taking place there.
I land in Stone Town. There are women gracefully walking in their white or black hijab all over the airport. I surely didn’t encounter before that much women wearing the hijab, even in Algiers. It’s intimidating, but everybody is really friendly.
In the taxi from the airport, I see the small streets passing by and finally what remains of an old fort.
Stone town is out of time, it’s like a trip in an ancient realm with all those Arabic and Indian style doors. It looks like some old Omani princess will greet me at a street turn.
I imagine princess Sayyida Salme (also known as Emily Ruete) roaming the streets and meeting her future German husband who would change the course of her life.
I imagine a baby Freddie Mercury who didn’t even know he would be Freddie Mercury one day, in the arms of his mother. Just an ordinary baby named Farrokh Bulsara in the arms of his loving mother.
Stone town is “Hakuna Matata” and I discover that it’s the actual Swahili expression for “No Problem” cited in the Disney’s movie” Lion King”. No lions in the streets of Stone town but colorful shops with likewise clothes branded with some of the most popular Swahili expressions for tourists: “Pole Pole”, “Hakuna Matata”, “Jambo”.
“Pole Pole “is actually more than an expression, it’s a way of living in Tanzania. I learned it quite quickly. “Pole Pole” means “slowly slowly”, but, to me, it means so much more. “Pole Pole” means “take it easy.” “Pole Pole” means that when life throw lemons at you, you take the time to think and then make lemonade, instead of just rushing through it and lose all your energy to stress. “Pole Pole” can be difficult to understand for a foreigner, especially one from a western country, but “Pole Pole” means live your life at your own rhythm.
In Stone town, there is also an old slave market in what is now an Anglican church. This is a very moving visit with the small slave chambers. Slavery happened mostly under the Arabic occupation of the island. To date, a small memorial cross of Dr. David Livingstone, who was a key influence in driving awareness and abolitionist activity, is found in the site.
After touring Stone town and a relaxing time drinking a cocktail on the beach watching the fishermen boat sailing back at sunset, I finally get to relax in a wonderful pool at the hotel.
After the night in Stone town, it’s time to head to Kizimkazi on the South East coast of Zanzibar. From Stone town, it’s an amazing road trip through the green vegetation of Zanzibar.
In the car, I feel the wind from outside and breathe the fresh air, I also see the crowded “Dala Dala” going as fast as they can.
On the way to Kizimkazi, I soon arrive to Jozani. The Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is home to endangered species like the Zanzibar Red Colobus, an endemic monkey species that live only in Zanzibar. There are also other endangered species like the Ader’s Duiker and the Zanzibar Cervaline Genet. This forest is massive and reminds me the need to protect nature.
Our hotel in Kizimkazi is luxurious. The residence is made of villas with private pools. There’s also a main pool with a sea view.
I love going to the jetty to see the sunset and the sunrise.
There’s a very romantic fire at night on the beach where I have dinner with a local band singing a very famous Swahili song:
Jambo, Jambo Bwana.
This song is fun to hear but also takes you to a very painful part of the African story at the time of the colonization and slavery where the master was called “Bwana”. Today, it’s used casually as a way of showing respect to somebody. I’m not comfortable using this word but I understand it’s also showing the resilience of African people. Colonization happened and Africa is still finding a way to sing, dance and live. Africa always find a way to move forward.
My stop in Kizimkazi is a magical interlude in an enchanted world, made of pure joy.
Happiness must look like this: a moment suspended in time where the fresh breeze brushes my skin, the sounds of the waves in a shell tells me stories of the sea, my feet are standing on the whitest sand, I breathe the freshest salty air …and everything is just harmony…Happiness is in my heart… Happiness is a sunset in Zanzibar…
Michelle Madina Sow-Jeanty aka Mika El Medine Sow is a pan-Africanist. Born and raised in Abidjan to a Malian mother and a mixed race Haitian father, she has travelled through 5 continents, 40 countries, 272 cities and more. She is the founder of Connecting Africa & Diaspora LLC. This article was first published on her blog SMILE P.O.P.