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Welcome Back Dear Reader,

It has been a month and some since we gathered here for a good ol’ post. Let me take this time to welcome each and every one of you to this new month! It is a month of new beginnings but before we jump into the new I would love to share a story time with you about my recent past.

So during this break, I had the liberty of going to Zanzibar. If you have never been, I highly recommend the place. It is an island located on the Indian Ocean, a few miles of the coast of Tanzania. It is a Swahili speaking island rich in history and spewing with great food. While there, you can ride a dhow and catch the sunset to the beat of traditional drums or stroll the ancient streets of Stone town and when famished, make a stop at Forodhani food market and eat to your fill. While there, enjoy a free show by the diving boys of Zanzibar.

Prior to my trip, I booked a hotel stay at a beachfront which seemed promising from its raving reviews. However, if you have read my previous post, The Suitcase, you know I have an interesting history with hotels/Airbnb stays. To get into the island, you can arrive either by air or by ferry. I opted for the ferry. The hustle of getting into the ferry will have you questioning that decision almost immediately. There are averagely three groups of people that utilize the ferry – traders, tourists and residents.

I fell on the tourist category. The traders occupy most of the ferry with diverse goods ranging from food, animals, clothes etc. The ride is about an hour long. Once I arrived at the port, it took another hour and fifteen minutes to drive to the hotel in Nungwi a town in Zanzibar. I should have known it was going to be an interesting stay when our driver dropped me off at the wrong location. After fifteen minutes, the hotel concierge came back with my passport worry dripped over his face saying he could not find my reservation.

I pulled up my confirmation and he proceeded to tell me that I had come to the wrong hotel and I needed to call our driver back. A few phone calls and many apologies later, we were on way to the right destination. Upon arrival we checked in and this is where the peculiar things sated happening. For one, I have never in all my years met female butlers. After the check in process the concierge called in the butlers to help me with my oversized bags. To my amusement they were females. If you have never been to Zanzibar, most women wear dresses called ‘’dera” these dresses are long and loose fitting. Not ideal for hauling anything but here we were.

'Deras' are perfect for any hot climate because the breeze can easily pass through causing a calming effect. They are also perfect for such a region due to the religious influences that require most women to dress in a modest manner. Now imagine, these two ladies show up in their 'deras' and proceed to carry my oversized luggage over their heads and down the pathway to the villa. I obviously was too stunned to speak but I knew I could not carry the luggage because well, they were oversized! We make our way through the hotel property and I observe these women as they haul these heavy bags up the stairs to my room. By the time we are making it up the steps we are all out of breath them from carrying the luggage, and I, from living a sedentary lifestyle.

After settling in, I decide to head over to the hotel restaurant for dinner and as soon as I set foot into the building, I am immediately transported to what seems to be Italy. The signage on the walls was in Italian, the staff although Tanzanian by birth spoke Italian, the music that serenaded our dining experience was Italian and the food was all Italian. So at this point I am thinking it is probably a theme night. I partake in my dinner and proceed to head back to my room for the night. If you have never been to Tanzania, take my word when I say that Swahili food is impeccable. For breakfast I was expecting a Swahili influenced breakfast – some sweet potatoes, samosas, vitumbua, mandazi….you get the drill. Imagine my shock and dismay when instead I found grilled tomatoes, beans and PLENTY OF BREAD. All these European choices accompanied the same music and feel from the previous night; it was all Italian.

I started wondering had I missed the fine print? Is this hotel for Italians only? I found it rather odd that the concierge had asked me whether my accent was American. Maybe that is why the driver had dropped us off at the wrong hotel? Well my curiosity led me to ask one of the staff what the nature of guests of the hotel was. He proceeds to tell me that the hotel was initially strictly for an Italian audience but due to COVID, business was not doing so well and the owner was forced to open the door to other nationalities. All the dots came together and confirmed my suspicions.

As if on cue, I became hyperaware of the fact that apart from the staff, I was the only black guest on most days. Also, I was the only English speaking guest on most days. The hotel had its native staff learn Italian as a pre-requisite for employment. But do you know what I found to be the most interesting thing about this experience, here you have a hotel on a Swahili speaking island on the Indian Ocean and instead of providing an immersive experience to the culture; this particular hotel had created a cocoon of sorts that imported the Italian culture to cater to Italians!

These guests leave their home country –Italy and fly across the world to experience the same old Italian food, music and activities that they enjoy back home. It is the most absurd thing to me. Do you do the same thing? Do you walk into new situations expecting the same things? If you do, you completely miss out on the newness of a place, person and experience. There is a lot of comfort in the known. However, growth comes through the unknown. As a sometimes solo traveler, I understand the sense of security that comes with familiarity. However, I have learned by embracing new cultures, food, experiences and people, my eyes and mind have been challenged in wonderful ways. Life is not the same everywhere. Shed off the familiar and embrace the unknown you never know what good…..or bad will come from it. The bottom line is you will never know until you try so, just give it a try.

As for the rest of my stay, I enjoyed my Italian fused Zanzibar vacation. I ate plenty of pasta, pizza and cheese. I swam in the Indian Ocean and on days that I felt a need for authentic Swahili experiences I walked across the fence to local spots.

Cheers to living through the unknown.

1 Comment

Aug 11, 2023

Thank you for sharing this experience, I felt like I was there with you for a moment. Wonderful read.


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