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On red soil

7th Heaven, pt. 2

#2 You can easily get lost in Stone Town

Stone Town is the old part of the capital Zanzibar Town on Unguja, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s got a lovely charm and reminds me a little bit of Italy actually with the narrow, winding streets, small shops and cafés and countless scooters. It’s very easy to get lost walking around but it’s small enough not to make you feel you’re in a maze, and the borders are easily defined. If you see the ocean, you’ve reached the Forodhani gardens (which is filled with colourful stalls selling grilled seafood by night) and the harbour. If you get hit by a nasty (and when I say nasty, I mean reeeeally nasty) smell of fish, or half of a dead, bloody cow passes by on someone’s shoulder, you’ve reached the Darajani market, and that’s the other border of Stone Town.

Sad fact: 
In the 19th century, Zanzibar was the main Arab slave-trading hub of East Africa. An estimated 50 000 slaves passed through the slave markets there each year, with many monuments and remains in Stone Town reminding of the era. Tippu Tip, the most notorious of slave traders, had a house in Stone Town now converted to a museum. Next to the majestic Anglican Cathedral lies the site for the old slave market, where a monument of slave statues is posited right next to an old tree that served as the centre of the market during the 19th century. I visited the slave market  and was shown to the chambers where the slaves were held before they were sold. The stone ‘rooms’ were even small for the group of ten that was inside looking at it, and the amount of people our guide told us were shoved in there daily, over 50, sent cold shivers down my spines and tears to my eyes. The cruelty and suffering from times past can still be strongly felt here and no explanation can suffice. It was eerie.

Fun fact: Next to Forodhani Gardens lies the House of Wonders,
Beit-al-Ajaib, built in 1883 by the second sultan of Zanzibar. The house is famous for having been the first building on Zanzibar with electricity, and the first building in East Africa to have an elevator.

Want to keep reading this series? Click here for 7th Heaven, pt. 3.
Missed something? Click here for 7th Heaven, pt. 1.



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