Safari: Tanzania – Stone Town, Tuesday 2022 November 15


Published: January 5th 2024

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Guides at the Jambo Spice Farm Guides at the Jambo Spice Farm Guides at the Jambo Spice Farm

At 9:00 (a luxuriously late start), we climbed onto a large air-conditioned bus. No more safari trucks!

Our drive took us through the forest, where Taib, our local guide, described the special growing conditions in Zanzibar. Many kinds of trees grow interspersed on the same land, and they grow tallest in the island’s centre, which is a rainforest. There, in the Jozani National Park , it rains at least every week, as it was raining today. The Park is the home of the Red Colobus Monkey . The native trees are mango, teak and breadfruit. Eucalyptus, Australian pine and acacia were originally imported to reforest the island and are maintained to spare the native species from being cut down for wood. These imports are quick-growing hardwoods, used for furniture and charcoal.

We turned off at Jambo Spice Farm, one of the many spice farms that form a major part of Zanzibar’s agricultural economy. Since the beginning of my trip, I have hoped to buy cinnamon here. Once Zanzibar was known as the Spice Island, dominating the world’s trade in cloves. Colonialism (German, British and Arab) plus internal politics brought that to a close.

As Taib mentioned a couple of days ago, the

Nutmeg fruit on nutmeg tree Nutmeg fruit on nutmeg tree Nutmeg fruit on nutmeg tree

Fruit cut open to reveal the mace (red) and nutmeg seed

various trees and plants are grown all together, more like a woodland than a field. As he introduced each spice, he crushed a leaf or cut a fruit, encouraging us to guess by smell or appearance the identity of the plant. My guesses were hopeless, but Susan’s ability astounded even Taib and his assistant.

Cardamon grows much differently than I expected, with air roots that flower and produce the small pod. Taib opened one and gave each of us one seed to taste. As he pointed out, this was the taste of the cleansing herbs chewed in Indian restaurants after dinner. Turmeric, which gives curry its colour, grows as a rhizome , just like its family member, ginger. Taib cut a small bit of turmeric, showing the colour inside – it looks much darker when dried. Peppercorns grow on an opportunistic vine. To my surprise, green pepper corn is the strongest. Taib gave each of us one peppercorn to carefully crush with our front teeth. Lots of heat! Black pepper is next, as it is green peppercorns dried. Red is the ripened state. White pepper is mild because the peppercorn is peeled and soaked in water.

Vanilla beans

Taib displaying clove flowers Taib displaying clove flowers Taib displaying clove flowers

also grow on opportunistic vines; part of the orchid family, the plant must be hand fertilized. Star fruit, a delicacy at home, is a “junk fruit” (Taib’s term) here – so plentiful that people don’t take care of it. Taib chose a beautiful orange ripe one and cut it for us. The flavour was rather like a sour orange. The green Star fruit, which he also cut for us, is used like lemon in cooking. Very very sour!

Clove, so precious to us, is used sometimes by children as a temporary henna. Cutting one pod open and using the oil, Taib painted the word “clove” on the hands of the three women; it disappeared with one washing. He also showed us actual henna, which some men put in their beards to turn them red. Even more red was the “lipstick fruit”, as it is known in Zanzibar, also called the achiote plant, a source of food colour. The assistant cut a pod open (it looks like lichee), crushed the seeds to release their juices, and painted his lips with the strong red-orange paste.

Taib next challenged us with a crushed flower. The smell meant nothing to me, but

Lunch: fish and vegetables with rice Lunch: fish and vegetables with rice Lunch: fish and vegetables with rice

Jambo Spice Farm

Fred correctly guessed Chanel #5 – the perfume’s main ingredient is Ylang-ylang. Our final challenge was to smell a piece of wood attached to bark – cinnamon, although it didn’t smell strong. The assistant dug up a piece of the root, which smelled like Vicks (made from eucalyptus); traditionally it was used as an inhalant for colds.

During most of this long walk, rain fell lightly. Although we were dry-ish, it was a relief to enter a purpose-built, open-air, thatched room, where we and several other tour groups sat down to a traditional meal. The staff served us, with one man describing the dishes. Flavoured rice, coconut (vegetable) sauce, green bananas in sauce, sharp greens, and a piece of fish. Everything was tasty, spiced in ways that enhanced each of the featured ingredients.

In a different purpose-built thatched room was the spice shop. Laid out on a long table were hundreds of packets: a dozen spiced teas, all the baking spices, spices for curry, including curry powders made up, and cinnamon bark, which I was specifically asked to buy. Each packet cost $5, which seemed reasonable, and by selecting ten packets, I was invited to select two more.

Union Spice Shop Union Spice Shop Union Spice Shop

Still tasting these souvenirs

(That was the extent of the bargaining.) I bought cinnamon powder and sticks, ginger, nutmeg, and curry powder – some as gifts, some for me.

We drove to Stone Town , the old centre of what is now called Zanzibar City, and the historic Maru Maru Hotel . Our rooms weren’t ready, so we were directed to the rooftop lounge, restaurant and swimming pool. We lounged for an hour.

My room is in an original section overlooking the narrow street. The ceiling is old – made of a plastered surface between small exposed dark brown logs. Over top of the windows are Indian arches, and filigree light shades hang in the centre of the ceiling. Attached to this old section is a new section, which hosts the rooftop.

Being hot and sticky, I made use of the swimming pool. Soon after, I met Mariana and Virgil to walk in a nearby big park. With only a small amount of confusion and hesitation, we walked around the old fort to the park across from the seafront. Lots of people were walking on the promenade or just sitting in the cool shade. Food vendors prepped for an evening of serving various foods,

Frangipani tree in Forodhani Park  Frangipani tree in Forodhani Park  Frangipani tree in Forodhani Park

Park near the seafront

including shawarma. In one stall, the vendor finely chopped vegetables for salad.

Having walked one way and then the other, we set off into the streets. Sharing with vehicles means that pedestrians have to pay attention, which was difficult while peering into windows and doorways. Almost all the shops were stuffed with souvenirs. The only one we entered was called Memories, recommended by Taib, full of souvenir merchandise. I avoided the scarves with difficulty and the Tanzanite jewellery with ease. I indulged in Tanzanian chocolate, manufactured in Zambia.

Hoping to make a circle tour, we headed off in the wrong direction. We were just doubling back when one of the other tour members fortuitously called out and pointed us in the right direction. By now the harassing-type street vendors were out in force, and we were glad to reach the hotel.

Dinner on the rooftop: broccoli soup, large pieces of calamari with chips and vegetables, plus Kilimanjaro beer and chocolate cake.

View map to date.


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