Where do I even begin? Each morning, everyone awakes to the sound of the call to prayer at around 5AM. It starts off quietly, as the first mosque, maybe a couple miles away, begins the prayer. Within a minute, more mosques join in (though each start at different times giving it the feeling of a song being spoken as a round) until every mosque on the island is flooding every street and house with the prayer. When it’s done, I go back to sleep.
There’s no A/C and it’s always about 99% humidity so I still get up pretty early, then rinse off under a cold shower, and head to the restaurant on the roof of my hotel. Zanzibari breakfast is fantastic (at least what we’re being served): fresh papaya, watermelon, and banana, freshly squeezed fruit juice (sometimes passion fruit other times avocado and coconut milk), and some egg dish variation. Today, after finishing breakfast, we split up and headed into town to visit the spice market and do some shopping. Stonetown’s (the town on Zanzibar where we are staying) markets are spread out through a labyrinth of narrow roads and alleyways and we spent much of the morning exploring this vast network of roads. What made this market so much different than any other market I had ever been in, besides its size and the number of spices, was the level of friendliness and respect shown to foreigners by the vendors.
The first time I turned down someone trying to sell me something and they didn’t proceed to follow me for the next 200 feet pressuring me to buy, I was so surprised that I almost went back to apologize and check out his stand. Furthermore, almost every vendor I’ve met has had a genuine interest in talking to me, even if I was clearly not going to buy any more spices. It was so refreshing and it made it easy to talk to tons of interesting locals, learned that being from the USA means you’re from “Obama Land” (and they love that), and practice a tiny bit of Swahili.
Speaking of speaking Swahili, here are a few of the words/phrases I’ve picked up (spelling is probably wrong):
dubu (“doo-boo”) – wolf
caca – brother
bububu (“boo-boo-boo”) – a very small village on the island named after a train that used to visit the village and made the sound “boo, boo, boo, boo, boo”
labda ni ta sasa lala fofofo (“lawb-da knee ta sawsaw lawlaw fo-fo-fo”) – Maybe I will sleep like a log now.
akuna ma tata – no worries. for the rest of your days.