Return to Zanzibar

Zanzibar is an island that impacts one’s heart. It’s a country rich in adventure, history, mysticism and the most breath-taking nature. I ventured back to Zanzibar as building of the new school that my close friend Aisha and I had started two years ago, neared completion. We spent the first two days in Stonetown – the bustling, vibrant town full of little shops through every nook and cranny.

The history of Omani rule is evident and real in every part of the town – beautiful carved arab doors that still exist after hundreds of years, Beit Al Ajaib (where Sultan Said bin Sultan lived and ruled in the 1800’s), the little caps worn by most Zanzibaris.

It is certainly every photographers dream come true.

In the morning we woke to the sounds of the waves, the serving of fresh mindazi (sweet bread) and the watching of hand-made sail boats pass by our breakfast table. We visited the biggest and oldest mosque in Stonetown, a splendid white structure, the renovation of which my father funded a couple of years ago. After plenty of exploring we spent our last evening in Stonetown at the infamous Mercury’s – a restaurant dedicated to the late rock star Freddy Mercury, who was born in Zanzibar, a fact many locals are proud to highlight.

We began day three with a journey to the eastern coastal village of Bweju, home to the new school. Our ride took us through the more rural parts of Zanzibar, where surrounded by beautiful nature, people went about their daily routines amongst the palm trees, modest huts and shacks. The contrast between poverty and natural beauty was everywhere. So too were the people, endlessly smiling and saying ‘hakuna matata’ (life is beautiful). This is why I love this island so much – everyone is so happy and content. As we reached the school we saw a group including the headmaster waiting by the side of the road. The structure of the new school was complete and looked magnificent against the backdrop of the palms.

Popping in to each of the classrooms in the old school, the children’s excitement was electric as we exchanged greetings, introduced ourselves and answered their questions.

Walking through the new facilities, it pleased us to see that it is able to accommodate 300 children from Grades 1 to 7. A large library room, computer lab and nurse room should all contribute to a better learning environment.

A generously sized hall can also be used for extra curricular events. What an accomplishment! I made sure I sat with the teachers and headmaster to hear first hand how we can improve the education received by the children of Bweju.

The rest of our stay allowed us to enjoy what Zanzibar has plenty of, and that is sea. We spent our days on the beach – taking hand built dhows out to go fishing. The fisherman told us that it takes three whole months to build the boat however it would last a good twenty years. We also went canoeing and cycling along the beach, perhaps the most enjoyable form a work out ever takes!

Floating in the turquoise blue waters facing the shore, looking at palm trees gently swaying over the pristine white sands is an experience to cherish. No wonder everyone is smiling in Zanzibar.

7 Responses to “Return to Zanzibar”

  1. Luma Bashmi says:

    It seems like you had a wonderful, fulfilling trip. Loved the descriptions of the town and the pictures, definitely intrigued to visit, especially for the people, architecture and influence of Omani rule. Not to downsize all the wonders of the trip but your accomplishment of setting up a school there is beyond words. Congratulations again, and I’m sure developing education will be another successful milestone.. Good luck and all the best.

  2. Aisha says:

    Mashallah beautfiully written Muna!

    I can not help but wonder how the Children of Bwejuu will be forever grateful to you and your father for making their dreams become a reality. Inshallah one day they will be future leaders of their community.

    On Sultan Said he had three official wives. His first wife was Azza Bint Seif from the Al Said royal family however his two other wives were from Iran. Additionally apparently he had 75 concubines of which he did have children from 13 Ethiopian wives and 7 from Circassians one being Sayyida Salma or last known as Emily Ruete, Princess of Zanzibar and Oman and daughter Sultan Said and sister to Sultan Majid. Interestingly the consubines/slaves had full inheritance rights unlike the Christian West. In fact, the children of concubines even had the right to rule.

    Indeed the archipelago is so mystical, magical and ever so exotic…see u in Zanzibar my dear friend.

  3. Aisha says:

    By the way beautiful pictures 🙂

  4. Liese Clark says:

    So lovely to read your article and see the beautiful pictures.It is wonderful that you continue, like your father, to support and encourage educational establishments in areas, which lack them. And it made me very envious that you were able to visit this beautiful island. Richard Owens took a group of people from the Anglo Omani Society to Zanzibar but we were not part of it. I think that we must plan a trip there and then go and see your beautiful school.The happiness of the Zanzibaris might rub off on us! Hope to see you next summer.

  5. Jane Shaw says:

    Hi, Muna, I know you had a wonderful trip – isn’t Zanzibar magical? So glad you made it to the school as I ran out of time. I know you came away from that experience with a big smile. Hope to see you soon, J

  6. Saira says:

    Muna,

    what a feat.. mashallah.. you just don’t stop amazing me…… the world needs so much equal distribution of income.. there is so much poverty around us… your initiative has set the ball rolling for these children….

    wow.. wow… and indeed a big bravo bonus to you..

    God bless…

  7. Macnross says:

    Nice Photos…Awesome

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