Zanzibar – the spice island

We were told that so many spices were grown on Zanzibar that we would smell them as we sailed in. The previous day, as we arrived at Dar Es Salam we woke up and both said ‘What’s that smell?’ Something burnt – but not a fire. Not electrical. Sort of petrochemical. We eventually settled on burning tires. Same thing in Zanzibar. We eventually found out what it was, but that is another post. We had booked a private tour for Zanzibar and Jackson was waiting for us at the dock. Off we went to a spice farm. Once upon a time the tourists would be taken first to a cinnamon farm, then cloves, then nutmeg…..until someone said maybe we should put a few of all the plants in one place and then not have to haul the tourists all over the island. So that is where we went – a demonstration farm that does produce spices but is set up to show us some of everything. It felt sort of like being back at school, as we were handed leaf after leaf to identify by smell.

Jackson is quizzing me. Ibrahim, in the background, works on the farm. He has made me a little cup out of a leaf that I am holding – to hold all the things they are giving me.

Ibrahim demonstrates usage of the lipstick plants. He also climbs trees to retrieve specimens when required.

Vanilla beans and pepper berries:

Nutmeg (and mace)

You can probably tell by my pink face that it is HOT! 36C that day and the humidity at OMG%. We discovered where on board we could get bottles of Gatorade, so in addition to the bottles of water they hand us as we leave the ship my bag is full of Gatorade. What really saved us on this tour that pretty much all of it was under the trees and out of the direct sun. Of course the farm operators know their pale pasty visitors are prone to keeling over, so we stopped while one of their guys ran up a palm tree(!), sang a song, came down and opened the coconut for us to drink.

Our guide in Dar, when he would run out of things to say, would burst out with the same song. Now I know a few Swahili words jambo for hello, asante for thank you, karibu for welcome and hakuna matata- no problem!

While we were walking Ibrahim was picking up palm fronds and weaving, and at the end of the tour we were presented with our finery:

Crowns, jewellery and a tie. Of course, being us we wore them. Even when we were dropped at the gate to the port and walked through the very busy port – much to the amusement of the port workers. Once on board we had to surrender our finery. The nightly newsletter has note saying that wooden and plant material souvenirs would be collected at boarding, inspected, fumigated and then returned to us to prevent bringing spiders (and other things) onboard. Hard to argue with that.

So, we were back at the ship by 11:30 am after what felt like a very busy morning. And then things got interesting.

Author: Sharon

I like to make things. I like to travel. I like to talk about what I'm up to.