Notes from Zanzibar; arrival

Bill Dennison ·
21 December 2010


Zanzibar airport was a scene, as we crowded into a small room to painstakingly fill out forms for our missing bags. The forms had to be filled out by hand with several carbon copies by a fellow at the airport as we attempted to communicate the changes in our itinerary. Missing our bags also led to a shopping adventure which we undertook once we checked into the hotel and had a shower. The hotel organized a driver and shopping guide who took us into the World Heritage listed Stone Town, the city shopping area which was a maze of small streets and shops tucked into every crevice available. The streets were too small for cars, but they did allow pedestrians, bicycles (constantly ringing their bells), motorcycles and an occasional ox driven cart. It was a full sensory experience, bright colors, pungent odors, a cacophony of sounds, and plenty of tasty food being produced, cooked and sold on the streets. Women were wearing everything from full burkas to shorts and t shirts. It was amazing how much style women in full burkas could display, with jewelry adorning their wrists and necks, some had intricate tattoos on their hands and arms, and young women often had relatively form fitting burkas. While black was the most common color, bright reds and other solid colors like yellow, orange and green were also common. Men had flowing robes and most were wearing the small muslim caps.

Bill wandering Stone Town
Bill wandering through Stone Town's streets.

The search for clothing led us all the way through Stone Town, and we emerged on the waterfront to a broad square and some beautiful large buildings. Our guide helped us negotiate the prices, all of which were discussed at length. Unfortunately for me, the sizes were generally too small so my choices were extremely limited. Returning to our car and crossing the street with traffic was harrowing, with cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians moving around in multiple directions (organized chaos), but we trusted our guide and plunged into the street. While this was a touristy region for Zanzibar, there was no mistaking that we were in Africa. Women carrying large sacks on their heads or plates full of fish, men hawking their goods or chopping up sugar cane to make a sweet juice, children running barefoot and playing in the corners made us realize that we were having a cultural experience.

Bill and bikes
Bill passing Stone Town's most popular form of transport.

Zanzibar has the most amazing doors made of hand carved dark wood. Both square doors (Arabic) and arched doors (Indian) were evident everywhere. Long balconies were also sporting nice carvings.

Kate Bentsen
Kate Bentsen and John Schroeder (Jane Hawkey's husband) with some of Zanzibar's amazing carved wooden doors.

This is the second post in a series about IAN's participation in the IFS/WIOMSA workshop: "Science outreach: reflections and tools for communication of research results".

Other posts in this series:
1. Traveling to Zanzibar
3. Notes from Zanzibar; Communicating science workshop
4. Zanzibar seems like a dream

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.



Next Post > Traveling to Zanzibar

Post a comment