Since Friday is a short day (due to prayers), we decided to take off work entirely and to show Edmund a bit of Zanzibar. We decided on a spice tour and arranged for Masoud to pick us up at 9 am. I went running in the morning then made some pancakes for breakfast. Edmund made scrambled eggs but because the eggs here don’t have a very yellow yolk, they did not look as appetizing, but tasted fine.
Masoud was there promptly at 9 and he brought with him a guide from town. On the 35 minute drive to the spice plantation, the guide (named David) explained how there are 49 mosques in Stone Town and two churches (one Catholic, one Anglican). We climbed up the highest hill on the island, which is called “the Kilimanjaro of Zanzibar”, which put us 300 meters above sea level (almost 1000 feet).
Our first stop was at the Persian baths that the Sultan of Oman had constructed for his wife in the 1830s. The baths aren’t used anymore and have not been persevered very well but you could get a glimpse of what it would have been like when it was new.
From there, we walked across the street to a private spice plantation and started our tour. The place was not laid out in any discernible pattern except for the cassava rows, but that made the tour even more grand because David would go up to a plant at random, strip off some leaves, crush them a bit then hand them to us and ask, “What is this?” All of the smells seemed familiar but we were horrible guessers. I got ginger (a root), vanilla (a bean), cinnamon (the bark, but not the leaves), cardamom, and pepper correct. I failed on allspice, cloves, turmeric, and a few others. They look so different in plant form than as a powder in a bag! It was really cool to see all the plants growing naturally and to learn of the many other traditional uses of the spices. Many spices are also used as teas and pastes to help cure common maladies.
At the end of the tour, we watched a guy climb a coconut tree using only is bare hands and a small piece of rope that held his feet a short distance apart. It was amazing and frightening to watch. He was 50-60 feet in the air and would have been seriously hurt had he fallen. While holding onto the tree with one hand, he cut down 4 young coconuts then climbed down, singing a song, then stripped to coconuts of their bark, opened them and let us drink the juice. Then he whittled spoons out of the husk and we used them to eat the coconut flesh, which is much softer and slimier than when a coconut is more ripe. We all gazed on in amazement.
In the meantime another guy who worked there weaved crowns and necklaces out of palm fronds for us and made glasses out of the bark of a tree. Later on we got small woven baskets as well. It was very touristy, but the weaving was very impressive, and overall it was silly and fun.
We also got to taste some of the fruits they grow on the plantation. I’ve never had a better mango and I wished I could have more. We had two very flavorful teas as well, one lemongrass and one masala. Tasty delicious.
Finally, we ended the tour with a hardy lunch of rice pilaf, with curried potatoes, curried bananas, curry, king fish, and cassava. Lunch was so good and I ate way too much. We all went home feeling satisfied and full.
We got back by 1 pm and Tanya and Jaclyn immediately went down to the pier to get a bit of swimming in before the tide went out. Edmund took a nap while I read more of Les Mis.
Around 6 we took a dala dala, the local bus, which is really a 12 passenger minivan, into town for dinner. We walked around a bit to build up our appetites then went to the Silk Route, a very good Indian restaurant. I had a wonderful saag paneer curry with naan. For dessert, we shared a waffle with nutella, banana, and chocolate sauce.
The dala dala doesn’t run very late so we got a taxi back home in the evening and hung out before going to bed.
Check out the pictures here: