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:

July 5, 2012

Resorts and Villages

Filed under: Africa — Tags: , — admin @ 8:14 pm

We stayed at two resorts during our trip. First we were at Bomani Bungalows, which is about 10km outside of Bagamoyo, about 2 hours north of Dar Es Salaam. It is a beach resort built by a Norwegian woman. She visited Tanzania and really liked it, so she bought some beach property and built the bungalows. The bungalows are in a large walled complex that is sort of appended to one end of the village of Klingamlini. Next to the resort is a private villa that was built by some other Norwegian – they are only there for a few weeks every year but they hire people to maintain the villa the rest of the time. It is very visually jarring to have this large estate jutting out of one corner of a pretty run-of-the mill village, but the villagers have mostly adapted. Bomani is a bit on the sketchy side – it is essentially run by Nicky and 2 restaurant staff. It took us 2 days to figure out how to get reliable hot water in the shower, and the beach is shared by the village, so there are plenty of fishing boats around. I liked how Bomani allowed us to interact with the village, though – they offered a village walk (where Nicky took us around the village and pointed out things of interest), and also “making food with the locals”, where they invite some local matrons to make food in a traditional house inside the resort, and also seaweed farming, where we got to talk to the chairman of the seaweed farming group and try our hand at collecting seaweed. Nicky taught us some Swahili, and made sure we got practice. There was a village wedding the night we arrived, and if it didn’t start at midnight and go until 6am, we could have attended.

On the other hand, L’Oasis resort in Zanzibar is much more of a standard resort – with swimming pools that overlook the ocean (it still doesn’t make sense to me), private beach, etc. It is next to the village of Kizimkazi, but you wouldn’t know it by being in the resort – there seems to be a complete segregation between the two, although I’m sure the hotel staff live in the village. We also had lunch at Saadani Safari Lodge, which has a maze of boardwalks to show you just the beach view and isolate you from the rest of Saadani park. What surprised me in all of these resorts was not only how easy it was to spend a week there without leaving the resort, but also how many people choose to do that. The restaurant menu is carefully European generic – pastas, steak, fried fish, and some curry thrown in. We had to work hard to find Tanzanian staples like ugali and chapatti. At Bomani, we met a nice Croatian couple who were there for 9 days and only left the resort twice. We overheard a Norwegian man asking for “chicken masala without spices” for lunch and “bacon and omelette” for breakfast. I…. don’t understand that sort of travel. Why spend all the money and time to go halfway across the world just to get a tan on a beach? Even if you’re Norwegian you can do that much closer than Tanzania – Turkey, maybe?
Here are pictures of Bomani and L’Oasis:


So, the village next to Bomani – I think it’s a pretty standard village, given the other villages that we passed through. The ones near Saadani had more brick, and the ones in Zanzibar seemed richer – more brick/concrete houses and fewer mud houses. But anyway, the village: It is about 80% muslim, and in addition to the government-sponsored western clinic, the school, there is also a mosque and a madrasa. The madrasa had evening classes that taught the Qur’an, and the mosque didn’t have a minaret, but it did have a loudspeaker pole.

Most people in the village lived in mud houses like this: (sorry I don’t have a better photo – I lost my camera en route to Tanzania and so had to resort to the cell phone camera)

It is a framework of wooden poles lashed together, and fine mud is filled into the spaces. I asked where they got the mud, since most of the area had sand. Nicky said that it’s from termite mounds. I’m a bit dubious, but it is rather good mud. The roof is made of palm leaves. It only takes about a week to build, and if well-kept, the mud only needs to be changed every 10 years or so. There is no electricity in these houses – running an electric wire can be a fire hazard given the palm leaf roof. So if you want electricity, you need at least a tin roof, although it seems most people opt to build a brick or concrete house. That is far more expensive, though, so there are many brick houses sitting around half-built, like this one:

We visited Hausa’s concrete house, and although he had electricity, they still mostly used natural light through the windows, so even though it was the afternoon, the house was still very dark. I think people are just used to using natural light. Many people cook outside, or spend their daylight hours lounging or working outside. Cooking for many villagers is done with a small portable charcoal stove. The amount of charcoal needed is about 20kg per month, which, according to Mr. Abbas, costs about 20k shillings (roughly $13). Here are some of the women cooking from our “make local food” activity:

We made chapatti, which is kind of like inferior 葱油饼 (chinese scallion pancake) because it didn’t have scallions or salt in it. We also made maandazi, which are like superior doughnuts. Fish is mostly fried with a tomato and carrot sauce. We also grated coconuts and made coconut milk that was then added to both rice and cassava. (For once, cassava didn’t taste like dehydration!) The red bucket next to the woman is a bucket of water. Most houses don’t have running water, so I often saw people getting water in buckets from the various spigots strewn around the village. I’m very glad they have potable water! At Bomani the shower water was distinctly salty, and everyone drank bottled water.
One thing that impressed me about the village is that it was its own microcosm. There were 3 “cinemas” – mud huts where someone charges young boys a few cents to watch some random movie on a loud tv. There was a tavern, a pharmacy, and about 10 shops selling everything from clothes to household goods to groceries. Perhaps as a jab at Bomani, some houses were painted with labels that said “Sheraton Hotel” “Royal Hotel”, etc. Most of the trees in the village are useful trees – either palm or coconut or papaya or mango. Here and there a chicken would roam down the street, pecking at various objects of interest, and a goat would be tied to a bush and grazing on some grass.
Here is the village school. (notice the world map painted on the wall)

And an interior shot of a 1st grade classroom:

And did I mention there’s a village rock band?

July 4, 2012

The People of Tanzania

Filed under: Africa — Tags: — admin @ 8:11 pm

Here are some of the people I met:

Amon, the man who picked us up at the airport was orphaned at a young age. His father died in an accident and his mother died in childbirth to his sister. After spending some time in an orphan camp, him and his sister got adopted by a Lutheran pastor. Now his sister is in Germany and he has recently returned in order to run a business. He is very angry about the current president, whom he sees as corrupt and weak (in comparison, Hausa thinks the current president is pretty awesome). He went on a giant rant about how only the “big fish” can afford mansions while the poor live on a meal a day, and how there’s no accountability and the courts are like “watching a movie” – just for show. He is married and has a 5-year-old boy and an adopted child. He wants to expand his business, but getting a loan at the bank is hard because he is Tanzanian and not foreign. His wife has started working at a bank, though, so he will try again.

Nicky runs the lodge at Bomani. He runs a tight ship, and is always courteous and friendly. He met a Tanzanian girl in England and they have a 2 year old girl. Whenever he sees young girls in the village around his daughter’s age, his face lights up and he always goes out of his way to talk to them. He wanted to stay in England but his visa ran out, so now his girlfriend and child lives in England while he lives in Tanzania. He is actually from the Kilimanjaro region, and have only been on the coast for 2 years, so many of his references are to the Masai instead of the local Muslim tribes. Like Amon, he is also Lutheran, though he is happy to say “asalaam aleikum” to the villagers. He hasn’t married because he seems to be holding out for a foreign girl.

Hausa, the driver, grew up in Bagamoyo. His extended family lives in a big concrete house with electricity and 6 rooms. All of the young adults in his family speak great English, so they are clearly sufficiently well to do. His sister is working on her tour guide certificate. He has a 4 year old son who is shy. He likes to tell jokes and listens to Tupac and Dr. Dre.

Abdul is 25 and grew up in Dar Es Salaam with his Mother and stepfather. His godfather sponsored his studies, but when he came up one credit short on his A Levels, cut off his funding. His mother then got laid off and his birth father has his own family, so Abdul can’t find the funding he needs to continue his studies. So he got a computer applications certificate, but then couldn’t afford a computer (400k shillings). Then he came to the village and has spent the last 2 years teaching at the school. He doesn’t have a certificate for teaching, so he doesn’t get paid. Instead he gets along with parent contributions, working with the fishermen, and doing Bruce-Lee-inspired backflips in the Bomani Dance Troupe. It was by doing those backflips that he caught the attention of Solfrid, the Norwegian who owns the lodge. Solfrid is sponsoring the year of studying required for the teaching certificate (dlasses are 400k per term and living expenses are 800k a term). Abdul has great ambitions but doesn’t quite know how to reach them — he says he wants to become a master teacher because then he can earn more money. He says he’d like to promote women’s rights because he sees the suffering of his mother. He wants to find true love, even though he claims to have given up on love after 2 girlfriends left him due to his lack of prospects. He is very actively trying to find another sponsor.

The village doctor started learning his trade from his grandfather when he was 15. To cure people, you describe to him what is wrong, and the he writes an appropriate verse from the Koran on a slip of paper with special ink and the burns it. You then smell it (whether the ashes or the smoke wasn’t clear.) Sometimes there are also herbs to burn and smell or make into tea. He claims to have learned the uses of the herbs when he went “deep into the ocean” and was shown the powers of each herb. He does also do referrals. If a patient shows up with TB or AIDS, he refers them to the western doctor in the village. There is also a pharmacist for when the western doctor is off duty on the weekends. I later find out that this sort of Islamic shaman is called a Mwalimu-Mganga. Many villagers visit him before visiting the western doctor, and sometimes people from other villages come to seek help due to his fame. His patients don’t always pay money – sometimes they pay in gifts. One patient was so satisfied with his healing that he gave the doctor a motorbike. Upon arrival in Tanzania, I heard from Amon that Tanzanian doctors were on strike because they weren’t getting paid enough. I later heard from Nicky that the last time the doctors went on strike (in February – the government still hasn’t responded to their grievances, hence the renewed strike), one of the Bomani drivers got into an accident. Nicky had paid to have the guy air-lifted to a regional hospital, but because of the strike, the driver did not survive. It feels like, between the somewhat sketchy provenance of the mwalimu-mganga and the lack of support for western medical doctors, perhaps the most reliable source of medicine are the pharmacies. The village pharmacist only had about 10 medicines in her cabinet, but the one in Bagamoyo was better stocked (still didn’t have mefloquine, though). The pharmacies in Dar Es Salaam basically had everything, prescription or otherwise.

Isaac was our guide at Saadani National Park. He has been in the guiding business for five years, though mostly in the Arusha region because he grew up in the Serengeti. He recently came to Saadani just for a year or two to further his studies of river and beach habitats. He has a son who is 6 years old… it was an unexpected high school pregnancy. His girlfriend at the time didn’t want to marry him, perhaps because he didn’t have any prospects, or perhaps because their relationship had cooled. He claims it is because women in Tanzania often look for much older men (later refuted by Mr. Abbas, although it did remind me of Kunta Kinte in Roots, though that comparing the two would be like comparing Georgian and Chinese weddings.) So now he works to support his son and be here as a parental figure, though he doesn’t get to see him often. Isaac also stands out because he is Rwandan. He said that his parents and him moved to Tanzania when he was a child, and he grew up in Tanzania. Even though he is culturally Tanzanian, locals have trouble placing him in the tribal schema… he often has to pretend he is from a nearby similar tribe. (I want to know more about this tribal thing. When someone asked Joanne where she was from, she of course said Usa, but then he asked if she was Chinese, and she said her parents were. He was confused until he decided that she was American, but of the Chinese tribe.)

Nick is from a small town in southern England, and 5 years ago went to south Africa to work as a guide. Then, a year or two ago, he came to Saadani to be a lodge manager. He claims that this is the natural next step in the industry, though given that Isaac had been in the industry for just as long, I’m guessing this is the natural next step for white people in this industry. He said he chose to work at the Saadani Safari Lodge because this lodge actually also does eco-tourism and community development… some of the money from the lodge has gone into building a school and a mosque for the local village. (On the way back through the park we passed by a brand new mosque that was a good 2km from the nearest village. I hope that wasn’t the mosque he was referring to, because then the white savior fail would be too extreme.)

I didn’t get to talk to many people on Zanzibar. It is a lot more touristy and people seem less inclined to converse. There is Mr. Abbas, who was our tour coordinator. He runs quite a good racket… he takes our money, and then basically drops us off in different places to different guides (whom we then have to tip) while he runs errands. But he is raking in the money … we are paying him 80 USD tomorrow just for a drive into town and some chaperoning. No wonder he can afford to send his 2 children to a private boarding school in Zanzibar Town (while he lives on the other end of the island near our resort) AND go on trips abroad to USA (Chicago, Miami, Colorado), Dubai, Holland, and Spain. He liked the US and Holland, and wants to go to China next. In comparison, I don’t think much of the money makes its way to the boatmen who took us to swim with dolphins and made us an awesome seafood lunch. Mr. Abbas is a very devout Muslim – he spent 8 years of schooling (probably in a madrasa) memorizing the Qur’an, and he was trying to get me to convert (I expressed a desire to visit Mecca.) We talked about the Hajj – the full Hajj package from Zanzibar is $3500, which is pretty good.

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