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February 20, 2002

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People use the name 'Stone Town' for Zanzibar Town because construction workers here make buildings from coral rock. The haphazard arrangement of houses isn't more organized than a coral reef. Whitewashed, coral-crumble buildings lean on each other, the streets run into crooked intersections, and the salty, humid air presses on the tight alleyways and erodes the rock. Stone Town excites the senses: dilapidated palaces of old sultans and slave traders, spice bazaars, mosques, old Persian bath houses, two tall cathedrals, a faded fort, veiled women, and brass-studded doorways. Doors serve as class distinction; ornately carved doors for wealthy people. Doorways present the most striking aspect of Zanzibar architecture.
Everyone has had a hand in Zanzibar - the Sumerians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Indians, Chinese, Persians, Portuguese, Omani Arabs, Dutch and English. Arab and Indian influence remains. Stone Town is a mix of Arabian and Indian architecture.
Women, including school children, wear veils and enliven the Arabian atmosphere.
Look up and see ornate balconies, an Indian influence.
Rich doorways. No doorbell, though.
This evening for a different experience we tagged along with local fishermen. We boarded a small dhow manned by three fishermen. As we pulled away from the beach, a person from shore waved and said "see you in the morning." The awful realization hit us that we had signed on for a longer than expected journey. The boat's small motor sputtered and powered us for hours away from shore. On this dhow, a glorified rowboat, rocking to and fro, we sat and fished all night under the stars and light from two lanterns. Around us other fishing boats bobbed, their lanterns winked and the seascape looked like a small village. In eleven hours we caught one fish, but it got away as we tried to pull it into the boat. There was a silver lining: we didn't become seasick. Our bloodshot eyes squinted in the dawn as we returned. Touching down on shore was a release from captivity.