Zanzibar: culture & people
Many people say leaving Tanzania to come to Zanzibar is like leaving Africa to go to the Caribbean: long white beaches, warm waters, palm trees… we guess tropical paradises look alike, and Zanzibar is a tropical paradise indeed.
But it is undoubtedly Africa.
And you’ll love its people and its culture.
An island of mixed cultures
Zanzibar is made of many different cultures. This lovely island was known in the ancient times for the commerce of its spices, and thus the African population received soon the visit of Arabian merchants that brought Islam to the island.
Many different cultures would come: the Portuguese when they visited and controlled the Indian Ocean. The British, when they replaced Portugal as the western power. Today, we see all those cultures added up in the beautiful architecture of Stone Town, or the traditional cooking of the island.
But, how do the people of Zanzibar live?
Sun, work and joy
You see the beaches and the palm trees, and you can think you're in the Caribbean, ok, but then you talk to the people, and you remember you're still in Africa. Happy people, joyful, always glad to help and make you feel at home.
Go for a walk in stone town on a market day, and meet a whirlpool of colours and flavours: the smell of the spices and fruits fill the air, and the beautiful clothes of the women fill the streets with pink, orange, green, yellow and blue.
People in Zanzibar is mainly Muslim (only a 3% of the population is Christian, an inheritance of our past), and when you hear the call of the Mu’addhin you’ll see everybody disappear for the prayer for a while: the streets get empty, and there’s a special magic in the air.
But to know the real life of Zanzibar people you just have to sit and look at the beach: the sand is the axis of all the island life. There you have the women, walking and fishing in groups, or checking the seaweed crops with the low tide. There you have the men, sailors most of them, repairing and caulking their dhows. And there you have the kids, enjoying the sand, playing with their self-made balls, cheering and laughing.
Because visiting Zanzibar is not just to see a few places or do a few things: it’s discovering its people, and feeling with them what it really means to live in this tropical paradise.