Looking for a blissful holiday? Forget Thailand, hello Zanzibar!
The orange of the flame trees was so vivid that I felt it would come off on my finger if I were to touch it. The colour of the flame trees stands out in my memory when I think about Zanzibar, with its white beaches and dreamlike turquoise waters.
Zanzibar, an island off of Tanzania, is a beautiful place to escape to. The brilliant green of the trees is unfettered by billboards, tiny shacks with metal roofs crowd the roadsides, selling bright red, yellow and blue football jerseys, t-shirts and flip-flops. The locals are predominantly Muslim, the women are dressed in colourful flowing clothes and matching headscarves, and there is a smattering of tourists but not in an overwhelming-the-residents kind of way, in contrast to Thailand. There are mosques and there are bars and everyone goes to their preferred building without judgmental glances at the other.
Our first stop was Stone Town, the main port centre of the island. You could walk around the city in a day, or in a half if you really want to stroll slowly.
Our friends had been politely curious about our choice of destination but the immigration officer at the Karachi airport was evidently unimpressed.
“Why would you go there?”
He asked, stamping our passports.
Well, for starters, you get a visa on arrival. That is not impressive till you remember, hey, you’re a Pakistani with the accursed green passport which gets stalled in all embassies.
Arriving in Zanzibar was amazing. I felt like a VIP, walking down the stairs from our airplane straight across the tarmac to the tiny airport (even though VIPs probably are not accustomed to walking around much – it might have been my sunglasses. I instantaneously feel cooler when I put on my sunglasses).
The hardest thing about getting the visa was trying to fill out the casual one-page application while an unruly breeze rushed through the open hall that was the immigration/baggage claim area.
$50 and a “Welcome to Zanzibar!”
We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast called Hiliki House. Moudy, our host, was awesome. He laughed a lot, shared his insights on Bollywood cinema (Salman Khan is a favourite) and left us midnight notes on possible adventure boat trips.
There was a four-faced clock in the centre of the town, and every time we passed it, we felt that time had slowed down. Then we discovered that each side had a different time zone displayed on it.
The beauty of a holiday though is that it does not really matter. No meetings, no work, no events that keep us all so ‘busy’ all the time, just a glance at the sky to decide if we want dinner or another wandering through the streets.
The first day we just walked around the town, found a random path to the beach and stared at the waves. The local boys played football on the beach while a foreign woman did headstands. We sipped mango juice and watched.
Engulfed in holiday bliss, which wraps around you in airy layers of happiness and freedom, we did not need anything more than cool sand on our feet and the balmy air.
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