ZANZIBAR AND MAFIA
Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago, is home to the capital Stone Town. The economy of this island was made flourishing by the Omani Arabs with the cultivation of cloves and the slave and ivory trade.
There are many historic buildings that can be admired in the center of the capital: the Arab Fort, the People’s Palace with its Museum dedicated to the history of the sultanate and many others. But Stone Town is also famous for its wonderful lavishly inlaid portals, symbolizing the opulence of the owners. The classic shape of the Zanzibari portals is rectangular, with knockers sprinkled with brass studs and with the jambs decorated with inlays. You can find wavy lines that represent the sea, fish, chains as a symbol of protection or the date palms which mean abundance.
Sometimes the portal is surmounted by an arched panel where it was possible to write the name of the owner or some verses of the Koran.
Visiting Stone Town you can breathe history: the portals are the symbol of all the personal stories that have taken place in the streets and alleys of this splendid city.
And again spices, important for export, and Taarab music, a mixture of Arabic music with Swahili lyrics. In short, this island has not only dream beaches and diving to offer, but also a lot of culture, a lot of history and a lot of art.
Not to forget the dark period of slavery, next to the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ and adjacent to the place where the slave market stood, there is the monument dedicated to the victims of this trafficking.
Spice tours are organized by all the resorts, along with other shore or sea excursions such as swimming with dolphins, seeing giant turtles on Prison Island or snorkeling along the coral reef.The island is also home to the Jozani Forest, a fantastic tropical forest of almost 2,500 hectares where the vegetation that originally covered the whole island has remained.
Taarab is a type of music of Arab origin that spread in Zanzibar during last century thanks to the sultan of the island. It all started when this sultan invited a group of Egyptian musicians to court, thus giving life to the most popular musical genre ever since.
From Zanzibar it then moved to the Tanzanian coast and beyond.
It is an engaging music that combines instruments from the Arab culture such as qanun and oud with violins, guitars, accordions and different types of percussion.
The word Taarab means ‘to get excited’ and this suggests dance, an omnipresent element in Tanzania and throughout Africa.
How does it work? The singer, begins her singing while the choir follows along.
The most unique feature is the mixture of these music of distant origins with very poetic texts in Swahili, which speak of love and local life.
The concerts held in Zanzibar are also very social events.
If you are looking for a good way to continue your holiday in Tanzania after a safari, you can spend a few days on the island of Mafia, about 130 km south of Dar es Salaam, a paradise made up of calm rhythms, diving activities and cultural excursions.
The island is famous for its marine park and the whale shark and is a real jewel as well as being the largest in the archipelago that bears its name, despite not exceeding 55 km in length.
The main city and capital is Kilindoni and its sea beds are among the most spectacular of the whole coast of East Africa due to a combination of factors, including the nutrients carried by the Rufiji River delta, very important for the marine ecosystem, and the mangroves, which protect the coast.
The MARINE PARK of the island was inaugurated in 1995 and is home to many species of fish, over 400. The ideal destination for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts, but also for those who want a destination out of the ordinary.
The archipelago includes other small islands, as remote as interesting.
Chole, where time seems to have stopped and where, walking through the tiny paths, interesting encounters are made in terms of flora and fauna and where you can still admire the ancient art of building dhows, the characteristic Arab boats that dot the entire coast. For history and culture buffs there are also some archaeological sites from the Shirazi period.
Two other islands included in the Mafia archipelago are Juani and Jibondo where green turtles go to lay their eggs and, depending on the season, hatching can become an exciting excursion.
Several islets and atolls complete the almost incredible panorama of this part of Tanzania.
Taking these natural beauties into consideration after a savannah safari can only add charm to an already extraordinary vacation.