But since being on the island I have learned quite a lot. Zanzibar, for those of you that aren’t familiar with it, is an island off the coast of Tanzania in Eastern Africa. It has been a part of Tanzania since 1963 when the people living here gained their independence from the Omani sultanate that had been ruling here since the 1800s, and joined with the mainland, which at the time was called Tanganyika. An interesting fact, the word Tanzania actually comes from the combination of (Tan)ganyika + (Zan)zibar + Azan(ia) (which is the Greek word referring to Eastern Africa). Before the Omani sultanate, Zanzibar had been used as a port of trade by both the British and the Portuguese who brought spices here from the east and grew them on the warm, fertile land. This cultural melee is easily seen in the island’s current residents. People living here are of African, Middle Eastern, Indian, and European descent. However, 95% of Zanzibarians are Muslim and there are over 50 mosques on the island, which has a population of about 1.3 million. Here, the Arab greeting “salam u alaykum” is just as likely to be heard as the Swahili “Jambo.” So just when I thought that I was leaving Morocco, it seems as if it’s following me just a little bit. Zanzibarians also frequently say “hakuna matata”–that’s right, like The Lion King (which uses several Swahili words–for example, the monkey named Rafiki is the Swahili word for friend). I still haven’t quite gotten used to that and think about the Lion King just about every time I hear it.
The only hard part about it, as I mentioned before, was that people would constantly come up to you and try to sell you things. “Jambo! Would you like to go snorkeling?,” “Jambo (#2)! Would you like to buy a wood carving with your name on it?,” “Jambo! (#3) would you like to buy some mango or pineapple?” There was even one moment when we were swimming and a guy was shouting at us from the beach about going scuba diving. We kept telling him that we weren’t interested, that we’d talk to him later, but that didn’t seem to work. He literally stood there for 10 minutes trying to get us to come out of the water and talk to him. Not exactly the relaxing swim I was hoping for. . .