I arrived home in Sweden to a lonely apartment slightly stunned and saddened by the huge difference with the busy narrow streets of Stone Town. The after taste of this quick surveillance trip to Zanzibar was so: Yes I had some hard times as I had to adjust to fairly strict Islamic culture, but, in the end it was a pretty interesting experience. I was lucky to gain this more local insight, even if it made me fairly pissed off a lot the time. I already missed the hustle and bustle of Stone Town’s streets, I missed my new friends and I missed the food! In the end, as usual wherever I go, I was adopted by some of the local Rastafarian community, this made all the difference. I was introduced to the “underground” Zanzibar scene by these guys and particularly by a very good new friend, Chidy, who also acted as my bodyguard against the continuous male badgering. Thanks to Chidy I found a way to move and exist parallel to the apparent exterior of the strict Islamic norms; I finally could be myself and speak completely freely to someone.
Luckily Ramadan finished when I was still there so I could finally get a glimpse of a more normal Stone Town; where the driver allowed me to play the radio in the car, where women finally exhibited their unrivalled exotic beauty and where I could feel a little more free. This Stone Town was an absolutely unique place, a mix of Arabia, India, Europe, Persia and East Africa, visible both in the buildings and the residents. Ramadan finished on the 29th of July so I was able to witness the first night of the four-night celebration, Eid al-Fitr. Woweeee!!! Stone Town suddenly burst life out of every corner! It’s hard to describe the way the place was transformed. The streets suddenly shook with music, dancing and chatter as crowds and crowds of people swarmed in from all over the island. At midnight people were still standing around the main garden park down by the sea eating and talking, while children were piled onto plastic sheets and blankets all over the grass to sleep. Men in long Kanzus (the long male Arabic “dress”) swept along the tiny narrow streets in big processions singing and drumming mesmerizing Arabic beats. Women covered in Henna tattoos, stunning colourful dresses, scarves and captivating make-up had me stopped in my tracks, the beauty was fascinating. I suddenly forgot about the piles of scarves and clothes that covered them as I couldn’t imagine them dressed in any other way. I felt pretty drab and colourless!
I am definitely ready to go back there for the next stage in November! I found my place there, thanks to the Rastas, to my translator at work, to my landlady Raya and to some of the fishers who so willingly gave up their time to teach me : )