Posted by: passedportsnyc | September 3, 2009

Notes from Zanzibar

Aug 21-24, 2009

The water is every cliche shade of blue and green. 

Despite the tourist industry, most of Zanzibar remains quite traditional.  Women wear kanga (a long, brightly colored, printed cloth, usually one wrapped as an ankle length skirt, and another wrapped around the head, creating a long, loose drape around the torso.) Along with their children, they wander out to the sandbars with handmade straw baskets at low tide to harvest seaweed.  Men and boys fish from the shore, from dugout canoes, and from dhows (traditional wooden sailing boats similar to the Egyptian feluccas). 

Zanzibar 1

Dhow fishing boat

Dhow fishing boat

Zanzibar natives predominately Muslim and most are of Bantu descent, but strong Indian and Arab cultural influences are evident.  There is also a vibrant minority Maasai community with a loud presence.  Most are recently arrived for employment purposes, still wearing the traditional bright red, purple and blue Maasai garb and accessories, seeking to profit from the healthy tourist industry.

Cultural diffusion: Maasai playin bocci

Cultural diffusion: Maasai playin bocci

Almost all of the tourists are either Italians on short-term holiday or Brits on long-term overland Africa tour.

The result, fully-robed women collecting seaweed alongside Maasai playing bocci on the beach, rubbing shoulders with nearly-naked Italians, is a breed of diversity (if that is the right word?) you won’t find anywhere else.

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