Our group spent a total of 5 nights on this “beautiful” tropical island, an hour and a half ferry’s ride from Tanzania’s capital Dar Es Salaam. We stayed in Stone Town, full of remnant Omanian architecture and mosques, for two days, and then headed north to the beaches for the final three.
Unfortunately, my stay was quite tainted by the drama that unfolded on our second evening in Stone Town when I discovered that my room had been robbed, my iPhone 6 and it’s plug and adapter taken, while it had been locked and the key in the care of the front desk personnel.
I had left it charging while we went to dinner at the night market and was only gone for two hours. Ordinarily, I would not have left out such a valuable piece of equipment, but when I borrowed our driver Pete’s laptop earlier in the day, he had told me to just leave the laptop in the room when I was done with it if I couldn’t find him because “we’ve never had an issue here before and we’ve stayed more than ten times”, which gave me a false sense of security.
When I realized it was gone, I was incensed because it was obvious that whoever took it had access to the key – which meant it was most likely a member of staff in the hotel that had just helped themselves to our room and taken what they wanted. They had rifled through my roommate’s bag as well, but hadn’t taken anything. I spent the next few hours in tears while my tour group leader argued with the hotel management in Swahili, the only intelligible thing they could say was to go on and on about how their hotel was honorable and nothing like this had ever happened before – like that was of help to me.
After having lost my laptop to whatever bad luck was befalling me, I was pretty upset that I’d now lost the one piece of technology I had left to stay in touch with loved ones back home, to access skype, and stay in touch with job opportunities as they arose.
This was not good. At all.
I was somehow appeased a little the next day when Dan, our local tour leader in Zanzibar, learned of what happened and went completely ape shit on the hotel management. He pretty much accused them of stealing my property, and as I instructed, suggested that whomever just turned up with the phone would get a $200 finder’s fee from me. It became obvious that this wasn’t going to work when Tabitha explained that an iPhone 6 could carry a $2000 tag price in Africa as they are simply not available still.
Just like Elsa in Frozen, I had to Let it Go.
The event certainly blanketed my first day on the beaches in a dark mood, so at least I had enjoyed my time in Stone Town which consisted primarily of doing a Spice Tour and eating lots of yummy cheap street food in the evenings. We visited a farm run by the local government that grew a wide variety of spices that we got to sniff and taste and wash down with various teas. My favorites were the cardammon pods and the cinnamon bark. Lovely.
We also got a palm-tree climbing demonstration by one of the farm’s crazy workers – who had colorfully been entertaining us with his heated arguments with two of his colleagues over the Champion’s League teams of Arsenal and Barcelona and who had better players. I find it hard to fathom how and why Africans are so obsessed with football, especially English teams – they are almost as passionate as the boys I remember growing up with in Wellingborough.
After the tour, we enjoyed a lovely meal sitting on the floor of our guide Dan’s own home, eating stewed chicken curry, rice, vegetables and red snapper. We also enjoyed a giant platter of some of the best mango I’ve ever tasted to finish the meal.
Stone Town itself, as the rest of “local non-resort” Zanzibar is pretty dirty, full of people, traffic and trash. Having said that, the narrow streets and stone houses were reminiscent of Havana or Panama City. Again, however, as with other places in Tanzania, I didn’t feel safe walking around with my group, let alone by myself. Predominantly muslim, it was also challenging to walk around in the 105 degree heat in long sleeves and pants which the local custom demands for women.
After a week in tents, having air conditioned rooms and a bed to sleep in was a treat – you know, if I didn’t think about how the hotel robbed me, also informing me that anything taken from the room is not the hotel’s responsibility. If that’s true – why bother even locking the doors?
The logic of the Tanzanian people is really not intact. I was also informed today during our arduous return journey from the beaches (which we left at 5am this morning) that Dan had attempted to obtain a police report after he took a few officers with him to the hotel to try again to get the truth out of the hotel staff. The police had declined to write the report because “it would create a bad reputation for tourists coming to Zanzibar”. When is there ever a crime that doesn’t negatively depict its environment? Tabitha assures me we should be able to get a police report in Malawi.
We shall have to wait and see…