Zanzibar: African Village Life

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Suleiman, born and raised in Nungwi, showed us around the village.

The first stop was to his old school where he introduced us to his teacher. He said he had really good grades until he left school at age 14 to earn money in the tourism sector. Many kids around here don’t have a lot of schooling – money and lack of resources being the number one reason. Older people don’t even know how to read or write. Today there are more than 1600 kids in the school and less than 40 teachers trying to tame them. It’s normal to have around 60 kids in one class. And oh, they really need some discipline because compared to Estonian schools, the kids were more loud during the class than Estonian kids during recess.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the classes, but they were just open air concrete rooms with a blackboard. Some rooms had chairs and in some classrooms kids were just sitting on the floor. The teachers seemed really timid and reserved (or just extremely tired), and I am not sure whether anyone in the class was even paying attention because the kids were making so much noise. Kids have subjects such as Swahili, Arabic, English, natural sciences and math.

After school we made our way to the East Side of the village. Suleiman said that there are 14 000 people in this village, while we have read that there are 5000. I suppose no one knows for sure. Most people don’t have electricity in the buildings and the sewage and water system is also an issue. So they simply cook their food on live fire.

Obviously no recycling system 

Some of the houses

Limestone houses

I asked Suleiman whether all the goats and other animals on the street belong to some people and do the people know where their goats are. He insisted that all the goats go back to their home in the evening. Not sure whether it’s true or not but it sounded quite funny.

Wild Goat Chase 

We had some cookies and candy with us to give to local kids at school but we figured that there would be a fight over them at school. Se we decided to share them with kids on the street. And oh my, they came on to us like they hadn’t had any food for days! Some were even rather agressive. So we told them to calm down and gave everyone one candy one at a time. The word spread around and soon all the neighbourhood kids had gathered around us and there was nothing left in our bags.

After walking and talking for a bit, Suleiman took us to his friend’s mother’s house where she demonstrated her crafts and other skills. We got to make some flour our of local grain, and gosh, it was hard! We spent more than 10 minutes on it and only produced a handful of dust. The old woman said they make 15 kg per day! We also got to try weaving some patterns of palm tree leaves and making coconut rope. Quite honestly, we sucked at it. The woman had major skills though. I was also surprised that the local black lady did not have any hair on her legs. Maybe I am ignorant for it but I had no idea that many of them don’t naturally grow hair on their body. Suleiman kept talking about it, that he can’t do it because his legs are hairy and I saw why cause you had to roll the rope up your legs which means all hair would have got stuck and it would hurt as hell. Sidenote: During our time trying these things local kids were sitting behind us and I think one of them had yellow fever cause he looked really ill, he was constantly coughing and his eyes were yellow and red. Good thing we had those vaccinations done before we came here.

In the end of the trip we visited the local fish market that was quiet during the evening because the fish comes in twice per day – in the morning and then in the afternoon. The fish only stays fresh for half an hour or max an hour and then it needs to go in the freezer because even the fridges here aren’t cool enough to make it not go bad. Because their boats are really weak, they don’t go too far. The longest some men are out is for the whole night. And talking about their boats, Nungwi is famous for its dhow-making business. They make everything by hand and it’s quite impressive.

Our tour guide with a tuna fish 

Regarding family matters, African villages are very much community-based which means that when someone’s in need, you help them. They don’t have this sense of individualism that we do. Sharing is caring and caring is sharing – that’s what they always say. Zanzibar itself is 95% Islamic and our tour guide is also from a Muslim family. He said he has a big family because his dad has 4 wives. They can’t have a fifth one because otherwise they would have to divorce one. Overall, the society seems very patriarchic, women being lowest on the social latter, doing loads of chores around the house and raising children. Many girls are not given education or many rights in the village system.

I think we have got more used to this lifestyle now. We take things more easy, know how to communicate and bargain better and don’t let dodgy people bother us too much. I have managed to get a minor sunburn but luckily there is fresh aloe in the garden so all is good. 🙂

Next time about the amaaaazing spice farm, former slave market and Stone town.


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  1. Väga head kirjeldused sealsest elust ning väga julge samm teistmoodi ja alternatiivset reisi ette võtta!

    Kas sul on hiljem plaanis kirjutada ka sellest, kuidas reisi organiseerisite ning missugune oli teie eelarve? Ma usun, et see võiks peale minu teistelegi huvi pakkuda. 🙂

    Mõnusat ja turvalist reisi jätku!


    1. Hea Kadi,

      Aitäh toreda kommentaari eest! Ja see on päris huvitav mõte. Ma võin sellest kirjutada küll, et kuidas ma reise tavaliselt planeerin. 🙂 Olen omajagu juba reisinud ja mõned nipid on selged. Ehk teengi postituse stiilis “10 nippi soodsa ja põneva reisi planeerimiseks”.

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