Zanzibar: they did not only trade spices

Zanzibar was East Africa’s main slave entrepot port until 1873, when the British Parliament voted to abolish slavery and persuaded the Sultan to render it illegal on the island. A cathedral was built in 1874 to commemorate the abolishment of slavery in Zanzibar. Its crucifix is carved from a branch of the tree in Northern Rodhesia (now Zambia) under which the explorer and anti-slavery advocate  Dr. Livingstone’s heart is buried.

Anglican cathedral

We make a disturbing visit to the old slave market, now the site of Zanzibar’s Anglican cathedral. We visit a chamber, perhaps 300sqft in size, used to keep as many as 75 slaves for the night, until they are auctioned at the market. Slaves were whipped to determine their price. Those who would resist screaming the longest would fetch the highest price.

1894 memorial to Zanzibar’s slave trade

Zanzibar: Babel of East Africa

It is fascinating to get lost in the narrow, winding alleys of Stone Town. Not even Malacca gives us such a strong feeling of a cultural, ethnic and architectural kaleidoscope.

Boys in Stone Town
Schoolgirls heading home

Pretty veiled Swahili ladies, shuffling quietly through the streets. Boisterous uniformed school children dilly dallying on the way home. Shrewd Arab traders deep in negotiations under an archway. Elderly Farsi ladies shopping at a street market. 

Street scene from the Zanzibar Coffee House
Square in Stone Town

Mosques, Anglican church, Catholic Cathedral, Jain temple, Vedic temple, Pharsee temple all form an awe-inspiring interdenominational mosaic.

Darajani Bazaar

Zanzibar: kaleidoscope of cultures

Zanzibar is a fascinating mix of architectural styles and racial types. Mosques, churches, merchants’ villas, colonial administration buildings, old forts, sultans’ palaces form an eclectic real life museum of the island’s history.

Persians, Arabs, Indians, Eurasians, and native Africans of every shade come and go in the narrow winding streets of Stone Town.

That evening, we give in to our nostalgia for Chinese food and dine at the town’s only Chinese restaurant, the Pagoda, owned by one of only five Chinese-Zanzibari families. It is surprisingly good.

The House of Wonders, the old Sultan’s palace. The first building with an elevator in Africa!
Government House
The old Dispensary

Zanzibar: arrival

We fly from Campi Ya Kanzi to Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, via Mombassa. After the bush, it feels good to be back to civilization in cospmopolitan Stone Town, Zanzibar’s old town.

Zanzibar is the archetypical “Spice Island”. Controlled over its 2000 year history by native tribes, Persians, Arabs, Portuguese, Germans, the British, it gained its independence from Britain in 1963 and subsequently merged with Tanganyika to form the Union of Tanzania.

A part of the Sultanate of Oman since the 1830’s and until 1964, Zanzibar’s tropical climate lends itself to the cultivation of all sorts of spices, which became its major source of wealth. Today, she remains the world’s largest exporter of clove.

Leaving Tsavo for Zanzibar

Kenya: a run on the wild side

On our last day at Campi Ya Kanzi, Andre goes for a run in the bush with Pareshi. Interesting experience to try and keep up with a marathon in two and half hours type of Maasai who seems to have springs in his legs and the regularity of a metronome !

The run quickly turns into a game viewing experience when we almost bump into – and startle a group of zebra, and then run behind a pair of jackals on a dirt road for a hundred metres.

Kenya: the green hills of Africa

Kampi Ya Kanzi lies at the foot of the Chyulu Hills, Hemingway’s “green hills of Africa”.

During our stay, we go hiking in the Chyulu Hills and visit the Cloud Forest. We start our walks in waist-high dry grass. That golden sea heaves back and forth every time the wind blows. And then the Cloud Forest suddenly happens. Deep green against that golden ocean.  

A golden sea of tall grass…

An ancient, lush, almost Tolkienesque forest full of gnarly old trees, its floor covered in moss, with Old Man’s Beard hanging from tall branches. It has a magical, primal feel to it. The rays of sunlight which occasionally penetrate the forest illuminate it like the stained glass windows of a cathedral.

The physical explanation for the forest’s existence – that is is situated at the “dew line” and is fed by condensation from the clouds seems too mundane to be satisfactory.

…soon becomes a Tolkienesque forest
Energy from the cloud forest

Kenya: a visit to the manyatta

Next, we visit a Maasai Manyatta (village). Only the women and children are around. The men are out tending to their cattle. And the Moran, the young warriors, live in a separate village.

I wonder what force pushes the Maasai to keep to their hard, uncompromising lifestyle when they have the alternative of employment at the Campi lodge. In the competiton between the two value systems – Maasai and “Western”, the Maasai, at least in the MWCT, seems to be winning. It’s as if humans need constraints and sacrifice to create a distinctive sense of tribal identity.

Inside the manyatta
Mingling with the children

Kenya: an unexpected ceremony

That evening, we dine with a representative of the UNDP, here to grant the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust the biannual Equator Prize, a global prize awarded to one outstanding sustainable biodiversity community initiative.

We join the celebrations the next day…

The boys in the audience
Maasai morani waiting for the formalities to end…
…so the festivities can begin

Kenya: Campi ya Kanzi

From the mine, it takes us six hours to reach Campi ya Kanzi, on a large Maasai ranch, wedged between Tsavo West National Park and Amboseli. Campi ya Kanzi (the “treasure camp” in Swahili) is the fruit of Italian conservationists, Luca and Antonella’s dream to build a partnership with the local Maasai community to help them benefit directly from the conservation of their environment and its wildlife. The result is the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which operates an upmarket eco-game lodge in the area, the proceeds of which go to fund education, health and research programs for the local Maasai community.

Parashi, a Maasai elder, and our companion for a few days

Instead of killing lions, Maasai become “simba scouts” who prove their bravery by tracking lions on foot. Among other things, the fund pays out compensation for cattle killed by predators. Check them out at

Campi Ya Kanzi is a unique kind of place, with a profound connection between the guests of the eco-lodge and the Maasai community. For four days, we are taken around the bush by our Maasai guide, Parashi. And we return from our adventures to be pampered at the lodge with some of the best Italian food we have ever had.

Occasionally, the connection with the local “community” can get too intimate, as when Laura has an unexpected encounter with a genet cat in our tent.

The boys contributing to the daily chores
Dolce vita at Campi ya Kanzi.