Making our way to Stone Town

If memory serves me right, tourists pay twice as much as locals do for a two-way ferry-ride to Zanzibar from Dar. When I talked about haggling in my previous post, I actually meant that Lulu ben (our kind tour guide) tried to pass me off as one of her daughters and Tina as a local Tanzanian rather than a Ghanaian. In cahoots with the friendly ticket agent, Lulu ben managed to buy us tickets for half-price. All we had to do was keep our mouths shut and try not to look like tourists.

So while Lulu ben marched onto the ferry waving to the people she knew and shouting a cheery ‘Jambo!’, Tina and I slunk by her side trying our darndest to blend in, I feeling a bit weaselly, thinking about the consequences if we got caught. My heart thumped in my throat as I handed my ticket to the guard for inspection and felt so relieved as he motioned me to pass through without even suspecting me to be anything other than a local Indian!

Lulu ben and I on the ferry, just before it left Dar

I couldn’t help feeling like a South Asian wallflower next to the impressive African-ness of Tina in her rust-coloured dreadlocks. Tanzanian men didn’t give me a second glance as I walked by, whereas Tina elicited much attention. They were drawn to her, and could tell she wasn’t from around these parts. They tried chatting her up in Kiswahili (which Tina cannot understand or speak) and tried to guess where she was from. It was fascinating to watch, and I was amused, and not at all resentful in my invisibleness, pondering the subtle variations between Africans. I guess Ghanaians are built differently from Tanzanians. In any case, Tina remained coolly aloof and enigmatic, and refused to indulge their curiosity.

The ferry ride was a lovely, relaxing experience once we got over the anxiety of cheating the system, and in two hours it was time to disembark.

As we walked over the ramp that connected the ferry to the dock, Lulu ben told me a story about a Bohri lady who returned from a 40-day Haj, only to fall off this very ramp into the deceptively deep water of the dock….and drowned. Horrified, I steered clear of the edge of the ramp and quickened my pace to get off as fast as I could. How depressing to die just minutes before reaching home after a long long journey…

There was a great hustle and bustle near the dock, and we walked towards the general direction of the main road, where the first building I clapped eyes on was this…

the Old Dispensary

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture restored the Old Dispensary, thereby conserving it, and it is now known also as the Aga Khan Cultural Centre. More about this building here.

Lulu ben marched up the steps and beckoned us to follow her. We walked in and looked around, and it was quiet, cool and empty inside, as I roamed around taking pictures…

inner courtyard

staircase leading up
terrace with a view
the beautiful balcony overlooking the street outside…
and the sea on the other side
Sultan of Zanzibar with some grumpy-looking cronies
As we wandered around inside, I came across this picture on the wall along with some history on the island of Zanzibar. Right across from it, there was a woman standing near a pillar with a tray full of assorted packaged spices. Cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, vanilla pods……and lots more.
I stopped for a look and asked Lulu ben if I should buy from here rather than the Spice market and she looked at me, baffled, no doubt wondering why I’d be interested in buying spices of all things.  I decided to walk on and think about spices later……I was sure I’d come across them again….
All I knew about Zanzibar was a vague notion of there being an exciting spice market somewhere, and some spectacular beaches and beautiful resort hotels. At this point I still harboured the hope that I’d get to see it all before I left. 
How very silly of me.
Next post: wandering around Stone Town..


  1. photokunstler says:

    You’re gorgeous, and somehow exactly how I pictured you!

    Lulu ben looks like a pretty knowledgeable and experienced guide, too. I can’t wait to see more photos of your journey!

  2. Very interesting post again, Mun….and lovely to see you at last !! 🙂

  3. satsumaart says:

    I echo Alan and Photokunstler — it’s so good to see your face! 🙂

    Love this post, the photos of the gorgeous dispensary, and your thoughts on being a tourist trying to pass as a non-tourist. 😉

  4. You are gorgeous, indeed!

    I love the way you are stretching the story out and including lots of details. I always hate it when good books end and want to make the fun last as long as possible. I feel the same way about this.

    Can’t wait to read more!


  5. I almost forgot–

    Sorry your long comment on my blog got eaten by the WordPress monster! Damn that creature! Thanks for the effort———————

  6. Munira says:

    Awwww, you guys are soooo sweet! You made my day (I mean, night!) with all your lovely comments! Thank you so much Patty, Alan, Lisa and Kathy! (never realized I didn’t have any pictures of myself around the ol blog, I guess cos I’m always the one taking them)
    Can’t wait to write the next installment 🙂

    Kathy, I’m sorrier than you can imagine! And at the expense of sounding immodest, I had really worded it well! 😦 But I’m tickled that you’re so intrigued and I WILL follow you up on the topic, don’t you worry!

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