I finally went to the Zanzibar tourists come for. I’ve been holding out for a while partly because it’s so completely divorced from the reality of the rest of Zanzibar and also because I’ve been caught up working on my shellfishing story which took me nowhere near Nungwi or any of the other beach resort areas. I have to admit, however, that Nungwi, which is on the northern tip of Zanzibar, has perhaps the most surreally beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
Because the sand is so white, the water looks as clear and blue as a swimming pool. A mix of traditional dhow boats and modern fishing boats bob on the water and signs advertise for massages and yoga. While Zanzibar’s Muslim culture means people generally cover up, here westerners walk around in bikinis and speedos, their skins tanned dark. Beach bar after beach bar offers exotic drinks and expensive food. A Zanzibarian man walks down the beach with a monkey on a leash, offering to be photographed with his simian friend for a dollar. When I photograph them, the two seem to be locked in some kind of ecstatic embrace. The atmosphere is definitely one of decadence and absolute relaxation.
Ironically the town of Nungwi itself is a small and ramshackled fishing village that was traditionally the center of Zanzibar’s dhow boat building industry. Apparently it was one of the last holdouts on tourism and the villagers opposed development up until as late as the mid 1990’s. Hard to imagine given that the coastline is now dotted with resort after resort.
So this morning I woke up to not only an amazing view of the ocean but a very dramatic sky. It looked like a storm was moving in and the contrast between the placid blue water and the ominous-looking sky was just extraordinary. If I didn’t know Zanzibar, I would have thought a tropical storm or at least a torrential downpour was headed our way. An hour later, the sky had cleared and the drama was replaced by beach goers slumbering in the sand, their barely-covered bums saluting the sun.
I love how man and monkey seem to be locked in some kind of ecstatic embrace.
A traditional dhow sailboat sits in contrast to the more modern fishing boats.
Me on the beach an hour or so after I took the stormy sky photo. All the drama dissapated!