American Express has been blessing me with 80k miles. Well, I have to say that I earned it with my compulsive behavior toward shopping. I always had the desire to discover Sub-Saharan Africa; so when the opportunity knocked, I opened the door (I primary checked the door peephole, I am not that foolish!) and spent all my air miles.
When I asked my friends regarding my upcoming travel to Tanzania, their reactions were quite surprising. Some of them were telling me narratives about how they saved children out of poverty in two weeks; other enthusiasts solely responded: “you will love it, it’s like The Jungle Book movie.” Cliché
Traveling to Africa is intense. Be aware that nothing will go as expected. Pretend that you’re a natural born hustler. Make ten copies of your passport, bring foreign currencies and leave your Louis Vuitton duffle bag at home.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Twenty-four hours before our departure, we received a note from Air France informing us that our “scheduled” flight was canceled. Ok bye. Luckily I was already in thug mode and reached out the customer service. In no time, we were booked on an earlier flight with Kenyan Airways. If you read my previous articles, you should be aware that I am anxious about flying with airlines that I don’t know. As a commissioned investigator, I thoroughly searched on Wikipedia the airline archives and read reviews on airlineratings.com. I also lighten up a few candles as well. Low key.
Two hours after taking off, we heard a boisterous “boom.” Praying Santa Maria meticulously in a loop like a rap song, I glanced around and noticed a man on the floor. With a look of distress, other passengers attempted to remain calm. After a second “ka-boom,” panic reached its peak and the audience shouted in harmony: “à l’aide, help, msaada.” Meanwhile, the aircrew was conceivably having a tea affair in the back of the aircraft; I attempted to recruit a potential doctor. In vain.
Without impunity, two hostesses finally showed up. The chapter “saving lives in the plane” has unmistakably been skipped of their final exams. They carried the victim to business class and disappeared behind the curtains.
I will avoid the details regarding the following flight, where half of the passengers were assigned the same seat. Ghetto airlines
Our driver Waziri pulled up all smiles in his Toyota Carina, undoubtedly the equivalence of a Bentley in Tanzania. The vehicle rushed on muddy and damaged roads across villages, stopping from time to time to greet some acquaintances. One hour later, to what seemed to be a decade, we finally arrived in Pongwe, a modest town located on the East side of the Island facing the Indian Ocean. A group of Maasais riding BMX bikes greeted us: “Wasichana wapendwa, ni jinsi gani?
We feel compelled to learn Swahili basics to interact with our hosts “Jambo, Karibu, Hakuna Matata.” The words were continually misplaced in sentences or incoherent. We switched back to English and kept the only word that was relevant to us “Hakuna Matata.”
Njiani ya Stone Town
After spending a few days running away from Maasais on the beach, we decided to explore the island headquarter, the city of Stonetown.
Our driver cowardly abandoned us at Darajani market, best known for its local spices and delicacies. Once we stepped out of the car, we were followed by a dozen merchants with the desire to sell their treasures: Safran, goats, Adidas with four stripes. The few tricks from my dad’s unpublished novel “the art of hassle,” helped us to escape.
Stone Town has been one of Unesco heritage sites since 2000. This coastal trading town has brought cultures together for more than a millennium.
The city is shaped in a labyrinth where narrow streets sheltered majestic doors and colonial buildings.
We embarked on a questionable fishing boat named “WhatsApp” towards Prison Island. No one seemed to own a smartphone, but they were genuinely aware of current trendy sites. We’re assigned a helpless guide that had no clue about the island’s history. During the visit, the dates were approximate; although that didn’t stop him from telling infinite fairy tales.
We visited the turtle century, a camp where massive turtles from 50 years old and above were living contentedly together.
The full moon
Every month, like the birds’ migration, tourists meet at Kendwa Rocks for the so-known full moon party. The nightlife being inexistent on the island due to the Muslim influence, all the party enthusiasts rushed to this Eldorado. We’re among them.
We arrived around 11 pm, and a live band was playing afro-beats and « romance » (to be polite) was in the air. Tanzanian men found their white sugar and were teaching them how to dutty wine. Later on, bag packers joined the party and were competing with locals on the dancefloor.
The vibe was like your sister-in-law’s bachelor party or a Monday night at Señor Frogs in Cancun.
« You wanna step back in the 14th century? Zanzibar airport will make your dream come true. »
Not sure where to get started, I am just going to spit it like a rap song:
“Between, the fact that the airport is half built or half damaged (depends on your perception), and that vegetable/fruit scales are being used to weight bags. The lady that does the screening is also the one running security at the metal doors and officers are using the first ever computer released to enter data and verify your passport. Security doesn’t seem to be the primary concern since everyone keeps coming in and out of the check-in area.”
When boarding on the Nairobi-Zanzibar flight, five people had the same seat assigned. At the very last minute, Kenya Airways decided to combine two airplanes; the final destination being Comores. No one seemed to know where the plane was heading.
One evening, the hotel manager assigned one Maasai to escort us to a restaurant located on the beach insisting that it would be too dangerous to go alone. While at the restaurant, our bodyguard didn’t want to leave and decided to invite himself to our table. He ordered a giant plate of lobster, on us!
The bikes provided by our hotel were damaged. When we asked the staff to fix it, they smiled and handed us a toolbag “here ya go, miss.”
When bartenders served cocktails, they tended to tear up the whole tree to collect flowers and decorate glasses.
Our primary goal was to snorkel among starfish, but we ran out of money since there was only one ATM on the whole island. A group of fisherman just happened to be hanging on the beach. With our “extended” knowledge of Swahili and a few dance moves, we were able to get the excursion for 11 dollars. Shawty got talent
Where do you think you’re going?
It’s ok to bargain. With a persuasive speech, the price usually drops around 50%.
To wish someone’s birthday, the song goes merely as ‘Hakuna Matata’ in a loop for 10 minutes.
It is not safe to hang on the beach alone at night. Rumors on the block are saying that Maasais are attacking people with their machete.
Make sure you fasten your seatbelt in the car, animals are often randomly crossing the road, and there are no lights at night.
ATM’s are extremely rare on the island, not to say inexistent. A Tanzanian soldier will enthusiastically escort you inside the bank, and stand within 1 inch while you will be typing your pin code.
As a European woman, expect to be pursued by Tanzanian men. No matter if you’re single, engaged, married or a widow, you won’t be able to escape your fate.
Common compliments heard in Zanzibar: “hey sexy cappuccino,” “hey I like your haircut you look like Lionel Messi.”