Spices

We had arranged for a Spice Tour on our way back into Zanzibar City for our night flight. Our ride back seemed just as interesting as the tour itself but unfortunately our guide discouraged any stops along the way.

What is wrong with this picture? Zanzibar was under British “protection” from 1890 thru 1963.

Always from the vehicle, we got to see

Children during recess:

The young people wearing black & white are high-schoolers and the ones in blue & cream, middle-schoolers.

Mothers waiting for public transportation:

People doing their shopping:

People come from all over the countryside to shop at these roadside markets

and then head home.

Public Transportation, called “Daladala”, is a bit tight but efficient.

The guy riding in back collects the fare. Sometimes, the truck doesn’t even stop and it’s up to the passengers to catch it.

The Spice plantations of old have metamorphosed themselves into tourist destinations as Indonesia has surpassed Zanzibar in the spice trade. One of these plantations was our first stop. These were the quarters where slaves to work the plantations were kept.

These now house plantation workers and their families

but are in the process of being taken down, not because nicer houses will be built but rather because the plantations don’t have a need for workers anymore. These people will need to find something else to do and somewhere else to live.

Zanzibar Island lies just 46 miles away from mainland Tanzania and as such it was the perfect headquarters for explorers and traders in the 600s. Local Bantu people served as go-between with Persian, Arab, Indian and Chinese merchants. This trade brought spices such as cardamom

and nutmeg

from Indonesia; and black pepper from India.

Zanzibar’s fertile soil and mild weather were the perfect environment to grow these plants and thus spices quickly became a major export. Persians are believed to have been the first explorers to settle in Unguja (Zanzibar Island) but the Portuguese took over control in the 1500s. Exploration in the Americas was in full swing by then and this enabled the Portuguese to bring with them seeds from Mexico such as vanilla,

papaya,

chili pepper,

and achiote (used in Tacos al Pastor, yummy!).

In 1698 the Sultan of Oman threw the Portuguese out and established trade in slaves and ivory, brought from the mainland; as well as clove, brought from Indonesia.

This made Stone Town (old Zanzibar City) one of the wealthiest cities in Africa. When the slave trade was abolished by the English, who had by then taken over control, in 1897 Zanzibar came to rely mainly on the clove trade for which they once were the world’s major producer. Clove was more precious than gold due to its medicinal properties as it was used to freshen the breath, relieve pain, particularly toothaches, and to conserve meats from spoiling. It is now also used in cuisines the world over. Zanzibar began to lose control over the clove trade just recently in the 1970s and hasn’t been able to recover from this economic downturn since.

Another ubiquitous fruit in the island is coconut. Since it grows everywhere without any human tending, it is common practice for young people on their way home from school to climb a palm tree for a quick snack as our guide demonstrated.

Our tour ended at the gift shop (of course) where we bought some spices to bring home.Somehow our dishes don’t come out tasting as good as the ones we had in Zanzibar, may be that’s a sign for us to go back?

We continued on our way to Zanzibar City and begged our guide to let us stop at the market.It would seem that all those trinkets we simply throw away somehow make their way to this place.

We wandered into the market where I was struck by how merchants arrange their wares for sale; for an onlooker with a bit of OCD, this was pretty neat. The stench was powerful

and locals made it clear that they didn’t approve of us being here so we made our way out and continued on to Stone Town.

 

 

Categories: Africa, Tanzania | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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