Wrapping up our coverage of the Colligo-sponsored Sharing the Point Africa Tour, here’s a recap of the final days of our tour … days which were pleasantly spent in the beautiful and exotic waterfront locales of Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
Famished, we arrived in Zanzibar late Saturday night, having quizzed our cabbie on restaurant recommendations during the short drive from airport to hotel. Following a quick check-in at our (essentially) waterfront hotel, we struck out into the Zanzibarian night for some food and culture. Just before arriving at our destination, we’d noticed what appeared to be a crowded open-air market in a waterfront park just steps away from our hotel in Stone Town. The vendors, set up in stalls throughout the park, were selling “pizza” (closer to overstuffed crepes, in actuality, and available in both savory and sweet varieties) and --far more exciting given that we were on an island-- well over a dozen varieties of seafood, most of which varieties had been skewered and were ready to be popped on the grills behind each table.
If the entire STP team isn’t in agreement that this was the most memorable meal of our Tour, I can’t imagine who the holdout would be … something about the combination of setting, screamingly-fresh seafood, spices, and the electric Saturday night vibe in the park that night led to a truly remarkable casual dining experience.
What did we wash down all that food with? Only fresh-crushed sugarcane juice with ginger and lime, a first-time delicacy and instant hit for several of us (others were already converts), your humble correspondent included.
Residents of Zanzibar are overwhelmingly Muslim, which was very good for us since the next day, Sunday, was our only full day in the city, and there are no restrictions in Islam regarding working on Sundays. As a result, historic sites and most shops along the picturesque streets and (pedestrian) alleys of Stone Town were open for business.
Variously, the STP team toured Zanzibar’s famous spice market (as well as its neighboring --and no-less popular-- fish and meat markets), the old slave market, beaches, docks, shops, galleries, and more, including taking a moment to snap a picture of the Freddie Mercury House (yes, the lead singer of Queen was born in Stone Town, and yes, I did make a point of listening to all of the Queen songs on my iPod while writing in Zanzibar).
While Paul was off visiting the beach in the afternoon, the rest of us enjoyed lunch at a terrific Ethiopian restaurant in town that had come highly recommended by our cabbie the night before … and rightly so, as the food was delicious.
After taking in the sunset from the rooftop bar of our hotel, Saturday evening found us in search of the local Hindu temple to (no lie) get a recommendation for the best Indian restaurant in town. What can I say? When time permits, that’s how we roll. That meal was very much a working dinner, and found us lingering for hours, reflecting on STP Tours past and strategizing about STP’s future, in part emboldened by another successful venture on behalf of SharePoint community, and with thanks to our fabulous sponsor Colligo.
With our Indian feast complete, we were powerless to resist the siren call of the vendors in the waterfront park again, and the scene was every bit as bustling on Sunday night as it had been on Saturday. Some more sugarcane juice, and maybe a mango and Nutella “pizza” to end the night? Hey, when in Zanzibar, right?
After what was (for most of us) our last night’s sleep under African skies, the team met for breakfast, our final meal together of the tour. It was our final group meal since we bade Joel and Paul farewell after breakfast since they would be staying on for an extra day in Zanzibar and then continuing on to Ethiopia where they would spend the remainder of the week, largely engaged in humanitarian efforts.
The rest of us (Michael, Eric, Mark, and me) were off to catch our morning ferry across the water to Dar es Salaam. Incredibly, the Wi-Fi on the ferry was the strongest we encountered during our entire (nearly two-week) stay on the continent. More incredibly, the waters were so choppy for much of the crossing that it took all of our efforts to ensure that our still-digesting breakfasts remained in our stomachs. As a result, very little work was accomplished, despite the spectacular onboard Wi-Fi.
Joel and Paul were lucky to have missed that nausea-inducing ferry ride, but they missed out on seeing Dar es Salaam, which was the most densely populated and thriving urban area we’d seen during the Tour. We headed, as we often do, straight for the nearest market, in this case Kariakoo Market. The market encompasses a wide swath of city blocks, and incorporates indoor, outdoor, and even underground components. It was a sight to see as we drove through looking for parking, and even more impressive to experience as we walked around, taking in the sights and smells, and making the acquaintance of several locals who helpfully tried to direct us to our target restaurant.
We never found that restaurant but, thanks to a recommendation from one of our would-be guides, ended up enjoying a final memorable meal at a Somali restaurant before making our way back to the hired van, and thence to the airport to begin the long (two-part) journey home.
The run to the airport included one last business that had co-opted a couple of famous African Americans for its signage.
In conclusion, I’d just like to express again how grateful the entire team is to Colligo for their incredibly generous support and sponsorship of STP Africa. While I’m at it, I’d also like to take a moment to say publicly what an honor and a privilege it is to be a member of the Sharing the Point team, and to be able to call Mark, Joel, Paul, Michael, and Eric my friends.
Till next time, STP forever!