Thursday, November 1, 2012

Zanzibar the Beautiful

Sunset at the Dhow building workshops, northern Zanziba

It has been a spicy, complicate, beautiful, and fishy welcome to the unique archipelago of Zanzibar. A semi-independent nation with Tanzania, the small islands off the coast of eastern Africa that make up Zanzibar have perhaps a 50,000 year continuum of human history since the first human explorers floated cut logs from the mainland. Overtime, Arab, Africa, European and Indian traders converges on these islands not only trading goods, but ideas. Known informally as the spice islands, Zanzibar is not just unique because of the cinnamon and ginger in the amazing local chai, but because of its multi-spiced culture. Eating chapati in an Arab style coral house while speaking an Africa language (Swahili) is just a mild mid-day example. And everyday I spend here it is more and more clear that this is not the Middle East, Asia or even Africa. THIS is Zanzibar.

Zanzibar Dhow anchored at low tide
This amazing melting pot, and the sustaining of an island population with fish, wouldn't have been possible without the Dhow. Approximately a 1400 year old tradition, when traders first started inhabiting the spice islands, the Dhow was, and still is, the main mode of getting the job done and supporting this intricate economy. I am living in Nungwi, the very northern tip of Zanzibar's largest island. I am staying at the Mnarani Sea Turtle Conservation Pond, right on the beach, literally next to Zanzibarr's largest dhow construction community.

Two Zanzibari fishermen sailing a Ngalawa
 Yet the Dhow isn't why I came to Zanzibar. Its the fast and beautiful boat the predates the Dhow by an unknown amount of time, perhaps thousands and thousands of years. It is the Ngalawa. The Ngalawa is a think double outrigger canoe often used with a sail to fish the biodiverse coral reefs of Zanzibar. The Ngalawa is an ancient and amazing tradition and I have become the apprentice of a man named Mponda.

Zanzibar the beautiful, the majestic dhow sail

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