lost in zanzibar

zanzibar is hot. at eight in the morning i’m sitting having breakfast not doing anything at all in the way of physical activity and sweating profusely. sweat drops pop up on my brow, upper-lip, and chin (who knew i had sweat glands there?), my arms glisten with it, mini sweat rivers cascade down my back. lamu was hot, as was watamu and mombasa and dar, but this is unbearable. must find ventilation now.

outside, an ocean breeze manages to wind through narrow streets and cool me down. last night luke and i came in on the ferry from dar and promptly got lost in the maze of old stone town looking for our hotel. nothing is labelled, there are no signs, just adorable street after street, turn after turn, until you don’t know which way is up. guides and touts take advantage of this to make a quick buck (sister where are you from?) and they’re more persistent than usual because the hotels will pay them even if the tourists won’t. one guy had followed us all the way from the ferry and in the end we gave in and let him lead us. but when we ventured out for dinner later, we decided getting lost would be half the fun.

right out of the hotel, first junction right (remember those white doors), left at the courtyard (see those banana trees?), next junction left (no defining marks to speak of, totally generic corner, will surely be lost), right before corrugated steel fence (look for sign for baths), next junction left (little shop here selling mangos and pineapple), right after pool table, left at lutheran brothel (brothel! oh yes, they mix their Ls and Rs), stop at restaurant with flashing christmas lights.

phew. don’t know where we are but we’re eating. to get back we just retrace our steps. right? christmas lights, brothel, pool table, shop. we stop and try to remember which way (should have left bread crumbs). the man selling mangos says with a smile, ‘are you lost?’ in unison luke and i say, ‘not yet’ and turn right.

we did in fact make it home on our own that night. the wolcott sense of direction is still going strong. and our insistence on going guideless meant that our eyes and ears were perked for details that might have gone unnoticed. in a city like zanzibar (like lamu, like venice, like dubrovnik, prague, countless others), wandering aimlessly is the best way to get a feel for the town- how it lives and breathes, the less-than-polished parts that are real and not on display for tourists. and if you do get lost, there will surely be someone willing to show you the way home.


~ by aliciawolcott on December 15, 2007.

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