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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday's Tanzania - Stone Town from Above and Below

Our final full day in Zanzibar was spent learning the history of Stone Town by taking a walking tour of the architecturally-rich city.  The view from above was both breathtaking, but again, showed us "two stories" of Zanzibar, while the view from below was a reality we will never forget, shared with us by a gifted guide of the island that we were blessed to have met.

Stone Town is the heart of Zanzibar's tourism and holds incredible architechural examples of the island's Persian, Arab, Indian, and European influences over the years.  It is famous for these doors with the large spikes which come from the Indian background - protection from elephants used in wars (purely for decorative use in Zanzibar).

Our walking guide took us to the top of a couple of special sites so we could overlook the city from different points -- at our first stop we had a perfect view of our hotel, nestled in the narrow streets and alleyways of shops.

Beneath these rooftops are mazes of shops and homes - shops we had stopped in - stoops with children we passed by each day.  And from another rooftop later in the morning we saw the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar and the blue waters of the Indian Ocean.


We will never forget our afternoon tour with our guide, Christopher, at the Church of Christ, an Anglican church, built on the site of what was the largest slave market in Zanzibar.  Christopher, who introduced himself by saying that many Americans had told him he looked and sounded exactly like Morgan Freeman (he did), told us the history of slavery in Zanzibar, taking us down into the chambers where the slaves were held.

The small windows were the only access for air and light, and the chambers would house hundreds of people at a time.  Being in the space and hearing the reality of what had happened there was overwhelming.  Outside of the church is a memorial sculpture to the slaves, using original iron shackles and chains from the time.

The church built on the site is indeed a beautiful one, with significant markers throughout - the altar is built on the spot where the whipping post of the market once stood;  the wooden cross on display is made of wood from the tree where the heart of Scottish explorer (and anti-slavery crusader), David Livingstone, was buried ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume?").

The church is built of mostly coral stone and the contrast with the stained glass windows adds to their beauty.

Next week - one more look around and saying goodbye.


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