Friday, 17 July 2009

Dhow Jones

I just realized that it's been two weeks since I last posted anything. I don't really have a good reason for not writing, but it just hasn't happened. Maybe Tanzania has finally caught up with me and I'm starting to work at an African pace. Actually, that theory is plausible, now that I think about it; I have been taking slightly longer lunch breaks recently.

The main thing to report is my second trip to Zanzibar. This trip was better than the last one, even though I did a lot of the same stuff. We went in a huge group this time -- 15 people in all -- which was a lot to organize, but was definitely worth it. We stayed in Stone Town on Friday night to see a bit more of the city, then traveled up to the beach party at Kendwa on Saturday.

The highlight of Friday night (and probably the whole weekend) was dinner at the barbeque pit behind the New Africa House. I went there last trip to Zanzibar -- it's an amazing place where you can buy almost any kind of street food you want for really cheap. All the chefs wear hats, and people (both locals and tourists) sit on the grass or on benches while they eat dinner. Here is a pizza stand:

Unlike last time (when I ate a terrible meal at a boring tourist trap), this time I decided to pig out exclusively in the barbeque area. I tried a few samosas (ok), octopus skewers (awesome), chapati in sauce, grilled meat sticks, and a couple of Zanzibari pizzas (thin fried dough with ground beef, onions and hot peppers inside -- pictured sizzling here):

They don't sell beers there because Zanzibar's conservative Muslim sensibilities don't work so well with outdoor drinking. The non-alcoholic drinks they have are fantastic, though. I had a giant glass of fresh-pressed sugarcane juice mixed with lime and ginger, then switched to a very nice spiced tea. The amazing thing is that the whole meal (easily twice as much food as I needed) was around $6. Not bad!

Once of the fun things about Swahili is that it's completely phonetic, like Spanish. English words often get converted to Swahili spellings by locals; 'Tusker' (the beer) becomes taska and 'battery' becomes betri. This phonetic-spelling approach leads to some pretty funny writing when locals try to spell English words. The following pictures show some hilarious attempts.

Can I interest you in some brad?

Or perhaps you'd care for some pholaphel (i.e., falafel). They're phresh!

Not pictured here: 'Crab Close' (claws), 'Pronws' (prawns), 'Stake Skuwer' (brochettes), plus 'Spices Octopos,' 'Karamali,' (kalamari) and 'Sordfish.'

We hired a couple of minivans to take us to Kendwa (Northern tip of the island) during the afternoon. The meet up point was the Big Tree, which is actually pretty gigantic when you look at it. I have no clue how old it is.

The whole group of us went to the Saturday-night party at Kendwa (which I also did last time). The folks who run Kendwa Rocks hotel have the party running like clockwork: DJ starts blasting tunes at 9, acrobats and fire dancers come on at 10, dancing continues until about 4 in the morning. The party was even better this time because we had such a large group... and possibly because we brought four bottles of Konyagi, a local tipple that tastes like a better version of gin.

So that was Zanzibar, Round 2. Big things coming up: I'm flying for Uganda in a couple of hours. I've got a ten-day trip in the works, probably covering parts of Uganda, Rwanda, and (maybe) even remote Burundi. And I promise that I'll blog about that stuff.

Also, thanks to Sara for hooking me up with these pictures.


  1. Nice! Good to see that you're making more use of Zanzibar's close proximity than I did - any chance you'll check out Mafia? I hear the diving's awesome there.

    Have a good time in Uganda/Rwanda/etc!

  2. reminds me of "biz-nes lanch"

    I stumbled upon your blog and have been reading it start to finish as I consider my own plans to go to Africa. Can we talk about Technoserve when you get back? Hope you're having a great end of your summer!