Thursday, December 21, 2006

Paradise Found

This coming weekend I'm off on holiday to a tropical paradise. One of my absolute favourite places on earth, Zanzibar is an island full of history, culture, spectacular beaches and mouth-watering food. Exactly my idea of heaven.

Not to get all tour guide-y, but Zanzibar was the centre for the East African slave trade back in the day, and the decaying ruins of slave markets and crumbling sultan's palaces still stand to tell their tales.

While a lot of the island is white, sandy beaches and aquamarine waters; Stone town, which is the heart of main island life, is all long and narrowly winding alleyways; brass-studded, carved, wooden doors (a throwback to the times the Sultan of Oman ruled Zanzibar) and dusty corridors that echo with the whispers of long forgotten ghosts.

Yup, you read right. Ghosts.

I have listened to older generation Indians and Arabs, who, having lived there after immigrating on dhow boats from the East, speak many a time of hearing shuffled footsteps at dawn. The sound of the jinn, going about doing it's ablutions for prayer. Strange sightings and mysterious sounds. And stories of possession.

It doesn't help that the last time we'd gone there, taking a meandering walk through the labyrinth of narrow streets that is Stone town (now a United Nations World Heritage Site), we spotted an ancient African man, huge rosary beads around his neck, carrying a dead crow in each hand. Witch doctor or other-worldly spirit, we couldn't tell. But needless to say, we kept very, very quiet as he passed us by in a world of his own calm.

My fondest memory of the place is when all of us, a bunch of about 5 girls, were idly traipsing about when we noticed some raggedy children teasing 2 big, black, scary-looking dogs by throwing pebbles at them. Suddenly we heard furious barking and on turning, saw the dogs lunging.

We ran for our lives.

Panting down the alleys, we ran blindly through the mazes of narrow streets, adding frightened beggars and confused shop keepers to our marathon team. We pushed each other desperately out of the way, one girl falling face down into the street, while another jumped clear over her.

After we'd sprinted across half the town, a man dashed out of a little shop. "What happened?" he shouted at us, alarmed.

"Dogs!" we puffed, terrified, "Dogs!"

"What dogs?" he asked calmly, probably thinking we were high on something.

We slowed down and turned. No dogs. They hadn't even bothered to chase us.

Here's wishing the holidays and the year ahead bring lots more fun, adventure, love and excitement; and even more stories to blog about.

Have a merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year.

I'm off to collect my fee from the Zanzibar Department of Tourism.

Links : Images of Zanzibar, More Photos, History, Stone Town.

Photo courtesy (stolen from) Getty Images.


IR said...

this is the advantage that africa has- it is still mostly an untouched and unexplored land.

have you ever spotted white lions around where you stay?

merry xmas and happy new year to you

Geek Goddess said...

yeah sometimes when i venture out underneath my tree house to hunt for food, i run into white lions and leopards. nothing to worry about though, i just shake my loin cloth at them and they run away :)

happy holidays!

IR said...

good, next time please pose with them and paste some snaps on this blog,white lions are a rarity

thats not what i meant- since you happen to be in the middle of animal world(ie tz-which is home to the white lion)i wondered.

Geek Goddess said...

heheh.. sorry I couldn't help it. Im ashamed to admit I didnt even know white lions existed. I googled it and apparently all white lions today are in captivity. They've been extinct in the wild for over 12 years. They're gorgeous though, aren't they?

IR said...

they are gorgeous,but they are not extinct,some 200 of them still exist

they are on the border of kenya and tz,some tribes there worship these animals,while some kill them

Geek Goddess said...

interesting.. how do you know so much about them?

IR said...

i find wild animals(lions,tigers,lep) very fascinating,i think they are absolutely stunning!

unfortunaltey i have only come across 2 legged wild animals in the commercial world ready to eat you up,however never a 4 legged :(

James said...

I envy you, Africa is my homeland but I have only been 1 time. That is a tragic outcome of the slave trade, most African Americans have never been, we are out os touch with our history and suffer from low self esteme because of it