Laying calm but conspicuous in the coastal edge of Pacific Ocean, about 15 miles off the “mainland” Dar-Es-Sallam-the former capital of Tanzania, Zanzibar Island appears stunning in its suis generis alongside many other archipelagos that dot the ocean, majorly, two are standing out, the other being Pemba Island with its uniqueness as well.
Zanzibar’s history is dated back to 1592 and up to the period when an Omani ruler, Said Bin Sultan, in 1892 made Zanzibar the second capital city of Oman after Muscat during his reign as a dynasty back then, but the present day Oman is an oil rich nation.
Zanzibar has evolved with different names, Unguja by locals and also in Swahili, it is fully called Jiji La Zanzibar and no doubt a name derived from the fusion of Arabic and Swahili.
Zanzibar is divided into two main parts – Stone Town and Ng’ambo. Stone Town being the ancient space where the island life originated – a UNESCO World Heritage site since year 2000 because of its uniqueness in architecture, culture, people and lifestyle while Ng’ambo simply refers to the other parts where development of modern structures are taking place in the recent time.
In 1964, the Sultanate of Zanzibar that also comprised present day Mombasa and the adjoining archipelagos fell from Oman and the Island formed Tangiyinka, form the modern day United Federation of Tanzania but with its own parallel autonomy but under the main authority in Dodoma, the new capital of Tanzania.
Absolutely, not my first time in Tanzania, but first in the enchanting Zanzibar, having visited Moshi in Arusha, the home of Kilimanjaro which falls in the northern part of Tanzania as well as other parts in the recent time, but Zanzibar has this allure that got into me the first time.
Landing in Dar Es Sallam via Nairobi on KQ, I connected with our Chairman at African Tourism Board, the tireless Cuthbert Ncube who flew in from South Africa for the big assignment of unifying African tourism under one umbrella .
There are two options of getting to Zanzibar, by air and by the ocean. “The island will welcome us either way, fly in or ferry in” my instinct tells me. And because of the enormous task ahead and the urgency, the Chairman said we should fly and we opted for the sky on a jet-like, light aircraft where I could feel the attraction of the other smaller archipelagos by focusing my gaze down from the window seat -my usual space that automatically switches a celestial affinity once I’m skybound.
Zanzibar, and the other small Islands are as stunning as you could imagine. I can feel in my imagination the beautiful scent of the flora so strong even from afar. They are so magnificent from the sky and unique as well in their natural habitat.
The beaches appear in their pristine, in such an unequal magnitude. I then wondered the more why would Africans talk about Maldives elsewhere when we have one that is not fully explored, even far better off if it’s given a full concentration.
Still in the sky, another perceived uniqueness of Zanzibar is that of its mass, it is so revealing; it is a very massive island all together without Pemba and other archipelagos.
Within 15 minutes in the sky, we touched down at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, at the domestic terminal 3, a pristine and urbane atmosphere with a great welcoming by the charming Zanzibaris from all sides, which signaled a positive omen for our trip.
While waiting to be picked up by Juma, the “businessman” chauffeur as he called himself, a lively soul, who came at the instance of our amiable ATB Amb. Mariam Lesian, representing Tanzania, an elegant Arafat got us engaged with the acquision of sim cards for our mobile phones, offering us Zantel for $20 each. I quickly recalled while landing at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar Es Sallam, that my new friend, Antigone, an Italian-Tanzanian advised me on the functionalities of the telcos from mainland to the islands among other vital information I received free of charge, she recommended Zantel for the Islands and it worked perfectly.
Our schedule in Zanzibar was such a jam-packed one and we quickly switched into it. Navigating Zanzibar City without the aid of amiable Amb. Mariam would have been hectic, but she helped us to understand better those uniqueness of Zanzibar as we transversed from one event to another, back and forth seamlessly.
At some some point, time stood still, not counting and night seemed like day, as we worked not minding what time it was, such has always been a typical trip itinerary with our indefatigable Chairman Cuthbert, atimes, l would ask “my Chair sir, where do you get this energy from? and we would just laugh it off and continue the assignment .
From Madinat Al-Bahr hotel, a coveted accommodation to Golden Tulip Airport, the Stone Town, Spice Island and the stunning beaches that surround Zanzibar and so much more, I think these are more than suffice to really understand why foreigners would spend their last money to fly to this beautiful, enchanting and alluring African destination called Zanzibar and why not us?