The people of Zanzibar are very special. This was something we noticed as soon as we arrived in Stone Town. People start talking to you right away wherever you are, whatever you are doing. This can be a bit disturbing at times when you are in he middle of a conversation or were looking forward to some quiet time. But mostly it just means having very interesting encounters.

Some of the encounters are minor and short, but still leave a lasting impression. Like the one with Mr. Rasta, as I refer to him. It was our first day in Stone Town and we were strolling along the narrow streets without a real goal when a dirty clothed, barefooted, older rastafari approached me. He asked were I was from, pointed to the building I was standing in front of and started explaining historical facts about it. I was immediately alarmed, remembering our encounter in Dar with someone who seemingly just wanted to explain his home and ended up asking for pay in the end. But I learned it’s important to give a country’s people a second chance. All Mr. Rasta wanted was to give some info about his island. His friendly eyes and white teeth sparkled when he told me at the end of our brief conversation that I looked like part of the Mercury family. (For those that don’t know, Freddy Mercury was born on Zanzibar and the island is very proud of this fact.) After that he turned and continued where he was going.

Another quick exchange took place one evening when we were sitting at the night market, enjoying our dinner. A young man in a rastacap came up to us, waving a flyer, explaining that he was a DJ and that there was a party in the old fort that night. Giving us examples of the kind of music that he would be playing he ensured us that we had to come. When he heard we were Germans, he excitedly added he would play something from “Die Fantastischen Vier”, a very well known German hip hop band, just for us. He then started reciting one of the songs, making small dance moves to the music in his head. I didn’t understand much of what he was mumbling, but very much enjoyed the little show. I actually was tempted to go when he called out while walking away that he would also play “Wir feiern die ganze Nacht! ”

We had most of our encounters at the night market. On our first visit to Forodhani Garden, it was getting late and the first people were packing up, when one of the Pizza chefs sat down next to us, holding his dinner (one of his pizzas of course) in front of me motioning to have a taste. V and I had a bite and agreed his pizza was wonderfully crispy. He told us his name was Mr. Nutella and that his brother, Mr. Lecker Lecker, was the inventor of the omnipresent Zanzibar pizza. Seems he had imported the idea from Mombasa, made some changes and introduced it on the island. Salim, as Mr. Nutella’s real name was, explained that all Zanzibar pizza stands at the night market were belonging to his brothers. As there are about 10 different pizza stands in the garden, you can imagine our suprise. In Tanzania everybody of similar age is referred to as “brother” and “sister”, so I enquired if he is saying all these pizza chefs have the same mother and father, which was not the case. But in some way or the other they were all related. Salim told us, we would have to try his neighbour’s soup the next day. His Urojo was the best, he enthused. Before leaving, he gave me a piece of peanut butter cake that his grandmother had made. It was delicious!

Mr Nutella Zanzibar Pizza

After that, we visited our new found friend every evening and ate his pizza. When standing in line at his neighbour’s stand, he waved us over saying he would buy the Urojo for us. He could get it for less. 😉 And on our last evening I heard someone call my name and saw Mr. Nutella waving me over from where we were sitting. He handed me a piece of Jackfruit for our desert. At this point I asked for his Facebook details. 🙂

Another interesting encounter was with Mselem, a young man who sat next to us on our second evening at the market and told us about his love for Germans. He explained that a German lady had started helping him financially when he was a young boy and thanks to her he had been able to study and now had a job with the government. But, he added, the job was boring and he was working on his real dream. It seems 10 years ago he had decided that he wanted to own a small resort. At that time beach land was not that expensive yet. Nevertheless he didn’t have any money to even buy inexpensive land. So, he ended up selling his bike, with which he was able to buy a small patch of land for 10 dollars. He persuaded the land owner to sell him more land on credit a year later. And currently he was building a big bungalow that he was expecting to have finished early next year. He talked a lot to tourists to find out what they wanted, what he could do better and how to succeed. Mselem, who we met on two other nights at the same place, was an amazing young man, full of vision and ambition. As soon as his little resort would make enouh money for him to live, he was planning to quit the boring government job. The only thing missing, he added, was the German wife…

Our last encounter before we left Zanzibar was at a tea stand which had become our final place to visit every night before heading home. They served the best spice tea that we had tasted since our arrival and kept us coming back. The owner was an older guy who didn’t speak any English and had a young man serve his English speaking clientele. The young, friendly guy was very quiet until the last evening, when he sat with us shortly on the benches they had put up behind the stand. He asked us where we were from, where we were heading to and smiled broadly, showing his impeccable teeth. Two grandsons of the owner sat next to us that evening and when they heard our raving about their grandfather’s tea, they decided to give us the secret recipe. 😀

Tea stand



The next day we were sad leaving this pretty and laid-back island and its wonderful people.