Sushu's Travel Journal

July 6, 2012

Slave Trade, Zanzibar, and National Parks

Filed under: Africa — Tags: , — admin @ 8:15 pm

While staying at Bomani we went on a daytrip to Bagamoyo, the nearest large city. Although it is a city, it didn’t seem that big. Outside of a small central area of about 6 blocks, it quickly devolved into village-style low brick and concrete houses and dusty roads:

It’s a bit hard to imagine that Bagamoyo used to be larger than Dar Es Salaam. Historically, it was actually a major port of the slave trade, sending slaves from East Africa to Zanzibar and beyond. Even now, the wharf has the poles where slaves were chained:

And nearby is a church that has a museum that goes into the details of the slave trade. It is very interesting learning about the slave trade in Tanzania, for a few reasons. Firstly, a portion of the museum at Bagamoyo (and also the museum in Zanzibar) presents slavery from a generic western stance. For example, they both use the generic slave trade images of slaves crammed into a ship, and they show maps of the Triangle Trade. I wanted to ask what the West African slave trade had to do with East Africa. And when I asked what happened to the slaves that were traded to the Arab world, the tour guide had no idea. It’s strange to find that even at the very heart of the East African slave trade area, the Atlantic trade dominates. That said, there is an East Africa twist to it – here, the British are seen as the good guys, and the Arabs are the slavers. The Christian churches established safe havens for freed or escaped slaves. There is a lot of respect for David Livingstone – he is seen as someone who convinced the British to actively end the slave trade and to pressure the Sultan of Zanzibar to do so as well. The fact that Europeans and Americans also traded slaves was mentioned as a mere side note. (The irony here being that many of the images in the museum are lifted from the Atlantic trade.)

Here is the church that was built on the site of the old slave market on Zanzibar

But I think it’s time to talk about Zanzibar, which we visited for 3 days.

Tanzania is actually a combination of Tanganyika, which was formerly German East Africa that was then ruled by the British after WWI, and Zanzibar, which was for a long time the seat of the Omani Caliphate but then was controlled by the British. After their independence, they were united as TanZania, although Zanzibar has a lot of autonomy. When we landed in Zanzibar by ferry from Dar Es Salaam, we had to fill out customs papers and get our passport stamped specifically for Zanzibar. Zanzibar residents are also very quick to draw the distinction between them and “the Mainland” — often highlighting differences in religion, culture, history, and government. It seems a bit weird, partially because the coastal region that I had just come from was very Islamic, as well. From the Zanzibar perspective, though, Bagamoyo feels like the hinterlands (despite the deep historical connections.) Zanzibar natives mostly stay on Zanzibar, and much of the island lives off of the tourism industry. They mark up the prices of things for tourists, and mark down the prices for residents. For example, ferry tickets for residents of Zanzibar are 18k shillings (roughly $13), but for non-residents it’s $40. We met many more people on Zanzibar who spoke English (meaning that they could afford the 2 million shillings per year tuition for secondary school), and many more who have traveled abroad, either to Dubai, Mecca, or Europe. Between the Zanzibar patriotism and the booming tourist industry, it’s little wonder that Zanzibarians tend to stay on Zanzibar.

Zanzibar is very conservative Muslim – Most women were covered from hair to ankles, and many men dressed conservatively, as well. Although there were female shop owners, the tour guides and taxi drivers were all male. Most Tanzanians don’t like being photographed (perhaps too much objectification), and so I was only able to nab a few photos.

Zanzibar is famous for the spice trade, so we visited a spice farm and was asked to guess a lot of spices. But here is vanilla and cloves – the pride of Zanzibar:

The spice farm was just one of the many places where we could see the agglomeration of cultures and trade that created Zanzibar – many of the spices are from Southeast Asia. Zanzibar is proud of their “spice rice”, which is actually Indian pilau. The fishing boats are actually of Indonesian design. Swahili itself is heavily borrowed from Arabic and Portuguese. In Stone Town, the old center of Zanzibar, there are mosques galore, but also 2 Hindu temples and 2 large churches. On the spice farm I saw the chirimoya that I had eaten in Peru, and also the durian that Jono loves so much. And also rambutans from Malaysia, falsely named to be Lychees:

During my trip we also visited Saadani National Park and Jozani National Forest. Saadani is one of the newest National Parks in Tanzania, and the one closest to Bagamoyo. Although it is a small park and seen as somewhat “second rate” because it’s not part of the north Tanzania circuit of the Serengeti, Ngorogoro, etc, it is still very cool because it’s the only national park that has beach, river, and bush habitats. We went on a river safari and saw three different types of kingfishers, some hippos, crocodiles, and giraffes. What I gleaned from the experience is that (a) crocodiles are really hard to spot! And (b) hippos are ugly and horrible. They are the most deadly animals in Africa because hippos and humans often compete for the same water resources, and hippos are violent and territorial. Whenever we drifted by a family of hippos (roughly 10-20), they would all stare at us. Ugh. At Jozani National Forest in Zanzibar, we saw some cute Red Colobus monkeys, and got a tour through the mangrove forest. Mangroves are cool! I guess my other animal experience in Tanzania was swimming with dolphins and snorkeling around a coral reef (where I lost my glasses).

Red Colobus monkey family:

Mangrove leaves that secrete salt:

But in the end, animals are just animals, and way less interesting than people. (Sorry, animals). For example, before visiting Saadani, I had no idea that national parks had villages. In the case of Saadani, there were 4 villages and a salt plant inside the National Park. The villagers mostly just go on with their own business, riding bikes, fetching water, going to school and praying at mosques, and mostly skirting by the safari vehicles carting foreigners around their land.

And here’s the salt plant:

Warthogs like loitering around this village because the humans provide safety from predators, and since the villagers are Muslim, there is no threat of being eaten by the villagers, either.

At Jozani, the entrance fee that we pay actually goes to the surrounding villages, while the Zanzibar government pays the guides’ salaries. This is good because the red colobus monkeys are actually a nuisance to the surrounding villages – for example, they eat mango peels, but leave the rest of the mango, which would be pretty frustrating if you’re a mango farmer. With Jozani, I have greater faith that the money is going directly to benefit the villages in locally-directed ways, unlike the “community development” initiatives of Saadani Safari Lodge.

Okay, fine, animals are cool, too. Especially when it’s a baboon who sits in the middle of the road and refuses to move:

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress