Saturday, August 14, 2010

Zanzibar

'Sometimes, you just need to take the cookies when they are passed'

Of all of the things my mentors and business colleagues said to me during my adventures in finance, these are words that resonate years on. So, when my friend Anoop (aka Snoop) suggested that we take a spontaneous trip to the birthplace of Freddy Mercury before leaving Africa, I was not about to say no.
We could not get our tickets online (really, one cannot deeply appreciate the convenience of modern commerce until it is gone!) and we had no transportation or accommodation arranged prior to our arrival in Tanzania. This trip was as blind as it gets. Snoop befriended a backpacker on the airplane, and we pooled with him to share transportation and find accommodation. And to snag a few minutes with his lonely planet book.

The guy seemed to have done some research, which was helpful as we ended up finding a cheap and very lovely beach front hotel. With a bit of effort. Turned out that most of the island was fully booked. Those that had space almost invariably had 'quirks'. Like...no electricity. Or, no water, etc. These are not normally things that I feel the need to check for, so I was glad that we had someone with us who was looking!
I have seen my share of nice beaches over the last year and I feel qualified to say that the beaches in Zanzibar are world class. Inexpensive, quiet, soft, clean, safe. I'm not even a 'beach person', and I was drawn to spend hours just sitting there in the shade. It was there that we actually bumped into another INSEADer; someone from the next promotion. I would say 'what are the odds', but the fact is INSEADers seem to get around.

We eventually broke from the gravity of the beach long enough to take in a few attractions on the island: Stonetown, spice farms, and local living.
A few observations from these adventures:
  • Islam is visibly the predominant religion; with women young and old adorning full burqa's. Hard to reconcile with the laid back rasta beach island vibe.
  • Nutmeg - in the same form as you put it in your cake - can be used as a recreational drug. Wha? Yes. It contains myristicin, which causes delirium in humans. And, potentially, death in some animals...for which reason we were advised to not feed eggnog to dogs. I'm not sure that I'm going to try this one at Christmas.
  • Turns out that most of the people here don't even know who Freddy Mercury is.
  • Remnants of Portugese, British, and Omani rule give Stonetown an appearance that cannot be found anywhere else. Unfortunately, you'll have to take my word for it as the consistent warnings about the dangers of theft kept me from taking my camera to capture any souvenir pictures.
  • Toll booths are relatively low budget, consisting of a man (wielding a large gun) blocking the street with a barrel (or other random obstacle), until you pay. No pictures here, either. Mostly because men with guns make me nervous, to be honest.

1 Comments:

Blogger BikingBakke said...

Very canadian of you - sit on the beach in the shade!

November 19, 2010 at 7:23:00 PM MST  

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