The Zanziblog

A smart Stonetown street scene
Camera: Panasonic DC-G9M2 | Date: 03-12-2023 13:36 | Resolution: 6188 x 3867 | ISO: 800 | Exp. bias: 0 EV | Exp. Time: 1/60s | Aperture: 7.1 | Focal Length: 9.0mm (~18.0mm) | Lens: LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9/F1.7

No sooner is the Red Rock Blog committed to the Internet, then I’m off travelling again. This is yet another catch-up multiply deferred due to the pandemic. While all the travel this year has been great, it’s been a bit manic and I won’t mind if 2024 is a bit more measured.

The destination this time is Zanzibar. I thought it would be a really exotic and unusual target, but in the last two weeks I must have talked to four people who replied either “been there” or “it’s on my list”, so maybe it’s not.

The flights were smooth and uneventful, except both legs ran about an hour late, and we had to get on a bus in Dubai. At least I didn’t have a missed connection like Lee and Ann, the tour leaders. Emirates seem to be operating on the same basis as Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia and training their guests to operate on the same amount of water as a determined Bedouin tribesman. Fortunately I had bought a bottle, otherwise I would have been gasping.

It is a bit disconcerting when the crew are making an announcement in Arabic and you clearly recognise the words “Marburg Virus”. I’m old enough to remember when the shorthand for haemorrhagic fever was the name of that unfortunate town in West Germany, not a small river in the Congo. When Jim Bergerac and his colleagues had to deal with an outbreak in Jersey it was Marburg not Ebola. Just for balance a notice at the Zanzibar airport mentioned the Congolese name as well. None of that was mentioned in anything I saw before I travelled, but hopefully any real problem is a long way from the tourist centres.

The Emerson Hotel is a posh Victorian colonial home converted to a hotel, obviously under the Tanzanian equivalent of grade 3 listing. Sod’s law my room is at the top of 6 flights of what may be the steepest stairs I have ever encountered. The compensation is a roof-top view of the harbour area.

Local lads outside the House of Wonders
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The sleep deprivation experience is not quite as marked as some photographic trips, but they are trying hard. I slept through from about 9pm to midnight, at which point there was an enormous clap of thunder about every 15 minutes. That went on for a couple of hours, then subsided. I was just getting back to sleep and the rain started hammering down. As my room is on the top floor directly under a tin roof I got the full “benefit”. The rain lasted at least half an hour, after which I drifted off again, to be awakened at 6am by someone banging out a crude repetitive rhythm on a anvil (or maybe a particularly tuneless bell). It’s not clear whether that’s a standard feature or a Sunday treat. So much for a lie-in!

New one for the dysfunctional hotels blog. During the rainstorm some water came in and ran down the rope holding both active and spare toilet rolls, both of which are now soaked!

After breakfast I moved from the rooftop room to a larger one lower down as per the original allocation plan, so hopefully night 2 will be more peaceful.

We were let out on our own before lunch. I visited the Freddie Mercury museum (he was born to love you in Zanzibar) and managed to buy two T shirts which is close to a personal best. Back to the hotel and everyone had finally arrived despite an impressive combination of flight delays and re-routings.

We spent the afternoon of the first day wandering the streets in a slightly more structured way with Alawi our guide, but sunset was a wash-out as all the locals had been chucked off the beach to avoid a visiting dignitary having to look at riff-raff, and there were no dhows coming and going. Maybe tomorrow.

A happy Zanzibarean family
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