Wednesday, July 11, 2012

07/11 - Stone Town, Zafela, and "goodbye dinner"

So again, I apologize for the sporadic blog updates this week.  All the same, today's update will have a lot of pictures and information because it was a busy day.  Our internet was down basically all day yesterday here at the resort.  While it was a huge inconvenience in terms of paper research, it was really refreshing to unplug from the world and just spend the day reading and relaxing.  I did not go into town, but instead opted to remain at the beach.  Gretchen was gone for the day because she had to go pick Stefan back up at the Dar es salaam airport on his return trip from Cameroon where he has been for the past 10 days.

Stefan acting crazy at breakfast.  We are glad he is back.

Our official trip is winding down soon and it is a bit sad.  Tonight, we actually had our "goodbye dinner" as a group.  Seth is leaving tomorrow and Phillip is leaving on Friday.  Kelsey and I will be continuing our trip for another 10 days or so as we are leaving on Saturday to head  back to Arusha for safari with Gretchen and Stefan, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Today, we began our will writing work again in Zanzibar with our first presentations and meetings here.  It is the most challenging environment we have encountered because of the Islamic resistance to will writing.  We knew this was going to be the case so we are not surprised, but it is still a bit eye opening.  I am now used to the 5:30 or 6 am sunrise calls to prayer broadcasts across the entire city on loud speakers from the mosques (they happen again sporadically throughout the day as well).  We worked out the Zafela office today (Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association).  I am happy to say that we ended up doing 7 wills today.  All things considered, I was very happy with that.  We are almost at 100 for the trip.

Our clients at the meeting
Group and our 2 friends from ZAFELA walking to catch the dala dala

When we left the office around lunch time, we decided we were going to split up and do our own things for the afternoon because we had plans for our "goodbye dinner" in Stone Town.  We ended up riding the "dala dala" for the first time   It was overcrowded and the smell was a bit overwhelming at first.  I was wedged in between two local men in the front bench seat of the minibus, and at the first stop, a lady and two school kids in tunics and hats of the typical traditional muslim fashion for boys sat in the last remaining seat directly in front of me and spent the rest of the trip studying me and whispering to each other.  It will likely be my last ride on the dala dala for the trip, but I am glad we experienced it.

Stone town 
So we got off the dala dala in Stone Town.  This is a historic market area of Zanzibar.  Everything about it is a fascinating assault on the senses.  There are hundreds of tiny shops down winding streets (they are actually alleys but they call them streets).  The shops sell fruits, spices, meat, trinkets, art work, basically name it, its there.  The guidebook said to avoid the alleys, but honestly, its all alleys.  I felt mildly uncomfortable at first (especially since I was carrying a backpack with mine and Kelsey's laptops, a camera, my wallet, etc) but it all worked out fine.

Zanzibar cool
More Zanzibar doors (I know its sideways.  I'll fix it later...maybe)

The alleys all start to look the same and I can see why people get lost in there.  We did get to see a number of the Zanzibar doors while we were wandering back there.  I will attach a couple of pictures that I snuck (had to be cautious about whipping out the camera in the alleys...a lot of the locals get curious and/or frustrated when they see you taking pictures of things).  We eventually made it out the other side to the waterfront.  We hung out there for awhile.  I was able to get a coke light (diet coke) which is rare in Africa so I was happy.

Chillin' at the waterfront park in Stone Town
"House of Wonders" which is now a museum

We still had a couple of hours left to kill before dinner and we ran into Phillip and Devotha, our translator at the waterfront so I suggested we go checkout the Anglican Church in town.  It is a historic landmark that I had read about.  The church itself is actually built on top of the old slave market.  Zanzibar was actually the last place that engaged in the legal selling of human slaves, and when it was concluded in the late 1800s, the church was built so that the main altar is actually right on top of where the old slave post was where the auctions were held.  Next to the church in one of the other buildings on the church grounds, you can go down into the holding rooms underground where they kept the slaves waiting to be sold at the market.  There was a sign there in memory of the many who suffocated in the small chambers.

The Anglican Church
Closer shot of the altar built in the actual spot of the
slave auction post in the last legal slave market in the world

It was a beautiful church (and I believe the only Christian church that I have seen so far in town).  I also found it interesting that the church is right next to a huge mosque.  We were walking toward the church and directly in front of the mosque when one of the regular prayer calls from the mosque went out.

After we left the church, we headed for our dinner spot, Emerson Spice Restaurant.  On our way, we passed a shop that was selling handmade Zanzibar chests with brass trim, and as a group, we picked out one that we liked and pooled our money to buy it as a thank you present for Gretchen for everything she has done to make the trip work.  We had been debating about what to get her because we wanted to do something.  We had actually talked about the chest idea earlier because she had mentioned that she liked them, but had not found one at the market that was reasonably priced.  So it seemed kind of perfect when we saw them in the shop as we randomly passed.  We had the guy wrap the chest and took it to dinner.

When Gretchen and Stefan arrived, we were talking about our day and within the first five minutes, she shared that she had bought a chest while she was out in town today.  We gave her the chest anyway, and after a big round of hugs and nearly crying, she said she loves it.  We tried :-)

Gretchen opening her present
I really cannot imagine having been here for this long without having her coordinating the meetings, and I know there is no way we would have met some of the incredibly interesting and powerful people that we got the opportunity to meet without her personal connections to make it happen.  I am so thankful for her guidance here.

The restaurant was on top of a small boutique hotel in Stone Town.  She picked the spot because it is a rooftop restaurant high enough up you can actually watch the sunset from the rooftop.  It was a fixed menu five course dinner that used many of the local spices here in Zanzibar.
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The courtyards are so interesting

It was also the first time I have ever eaten rabbit (at least that I know of) which was the 3rd course.  The rest of the food was amazing.  The rabbit was a first and last type of experience I think.  I am attaching a picture of the menu from tonight as well.

Dinner menu.  I ate rabbit
Sunset from Emerson Spice
The "goodbye dinner" group shot
Gretchen and Devotha

All in all, it was a great day.  The official part of our trip will be concluded in another 48 hours.  I still have to go home and write a paper because we have not had a great deal of time here to focus on our research, but when I try to think about which part of the meetings or projects that we have done that I would have taken out, I am hard pressed to give any of it up.

Stone Town from Emerson Spice

Another shot of Stone Town


  1. I cannot believe you ate 'Bugs'. What would Elmer think!

  2. Well, if it makes you feel any better, not sure why Elmer spent so long hunting him. It wasn't that good (and I got a dirty look from the table in general when I said "eat up. Its a long hop home after dinner")