Story and Images by: Michaela Guzy, Founder of OhThePeopleYouMeet.com.
After seven days of no showering and hiking up Kilimanjaro, I was ready for some active relaxation. My friends at Adventure International insisted that Zanzibar, a series of islands off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, were exactly what the doctor ordered. According to Wikipedia, about 95 percent of Zanzibar’s population follow the laws of Islam with the remaining 5 percent are mostly Christians. (Pictured, you will see that most women cover their shoulders and heads and wear floor length skirts– all with the most colorful textiles!)
My inability to sit still allowed for me to see all that the historic Stone Town - a World Heritage Site - had to offer…from lunch on the beach at the famous Freddy Mercury’s (Bohemian Rhapsody anyone?), the spice markets, the former slave trade market and auction, to the winding alleys with street food & shops (both Mago East Africa-pictured and Doreen Mashika Shop are modern local designers not to be missed). I even discovered a great Moroccan style boutique hotel, Jafferji House & Spa, in the heart of the city– delicious food, amazing photography (the owner’s) and the views of the city and the sea from the outdoor rooftop spa are breathtaking.
After running up a mountain and around a bustling city with the stark contrast of modernization and crumbling buildings, I was ready for a little beach time. Happy to report that just a chaotic one hour drive behind a donkey cart later (pictured below), I arrived at the beach. Zanzibar not only has stunning white sands, but plenty of wildlife, sea turtle expeditions, dhow rides but active communities who spend their days fishing on the beach. Not many of the local fishermen and women spoke English, but I was able to ask one young lady if she ate a lot of sea urchins (pictured in the buckets). She looked at me as any teenage girl would do, with a hip cocked, eye brow raised and a smirk, “No, the Japanese eat them”. In my three months across Africa, I came to find the locals prefer red meat.
I had the pleasure of staying at Matemwe, a part of Asilia Lodges, who support their local fishing village by purchasing local veggies and fish, local crafts, the school in the neighboring village (check out the adorable pictures below of the children in uniform on their walk home) and Pack for Purpose. About half the of Zanzibar’s population lives below the poverty line, making Matemwe’s programs all the more vital.
The views from my room, which I may add was about the size of the house I grew up in, were ridiculous: The sea is crystal blue, it’s as if the hotel paid the rustic dhows to row past all day, the plunge pool on the roof deck was a nice touch, but the private local butler gave Matemwe the gold star for a hotel that got “Luxury with a Conscience” right.