Archive for May, 2022

East Africa, Part 21: Zanzibar.

Saturday, May 28th, 2022

Stone Town! But first, let’s look a fezzes. Fezzezzes. Many hates of the fez style. Zanzabar is Muslim so the men wear what is the appropriate headdress in this case.

You’ll also notice many of the women and girls wearing head coverings.

Here are two excellent examples of women wearing ankara material which I spoke about earlier.

On the road to Stone Town: Would you like some soccer balls? Men’s belts? The scalps of sea maidens guaranteed to bring curses into your home?

We drove through the area of Bububu. The name is thought to have come from the trains going by on the tracks but no one knows for sure.

Okay, Stone Town. Zanzibar’s capital city. Stone Town is knows for its large carved wooden doors. We did a walking tour to see as many doors as we could.

The first thing I noticed was how many buildings were falling down. The second thing I noticed was how many men were just… hanging out. Loitering. It may only be a woman thing, but men existing without clear purpose scares all of us. So I picked up on it quickly.

Here are some explanations of door designs:

Electricity is reeeaaaaal concerning. I don’t know if the people there know how electricity works but I do, a little, and this cannot end well.

A tree I liked.

There’s no nice way to explain this next bit. Zanzibar was famous for trading three things: Spices, gemstones, and slaves. I thought the slave trade was solely through the left side of the continent to America but unbeknownst to me there was slave trade on the right side to India and Asia. I blame the U.S. educational system for my ignorance. In the center of Stone Town there was an enormous tree where the slaves were lashed and sold. When slavery was abolished an Anglican priest came and built a church where the tree was.

That’s where the tree was.

Apparently the columns were installed upside down. I can’t tell but I imagine some architects are ripping their hair out saying “How can you not see???”

I went deeper into the history of slavery on the island and it is horrendous. Like concentration-camp-level atrocious. There is a sculpture next to the church commemorating the slave trade. There’s also a museum worth visiting that was eye-opening. I recommend it.

I liked the way the Christianity and Islam live harmoniously together.

The locks and chains were to keep women in the house. Because, as you well know, if you let’em out, chaos.

All kinds of people came to Zanzibar to trade in gems, spices and slaves. You can see influences of all different cultures, mainly Arab and Indian. There’s a graveyard for the Sultan of Oman and his sons from the late 1800s.

And the remains of a fort.

Seriously, is everyone okay with the electricity system? No one is concerned?

The best takeaway image from the island was this impromptu picture. Men, sitting outside a store that sells tanzanites (a rare gem only found in Tanzania) eating fresh-caught and cooked prawns off a tray.

Thus endeth my trip to Africa. It had many awesome aspects, specifically the animal reserves. If you ever get a chance to go to Kenya and/or Tanzania and experience that, do it without delay. We will now return to our regularly schedule of random whatnot and charts. Thank you for your patience.

East Africa, Part 20: Zanzibar.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

Spices! Zanzibar is known as the Spice Island, specifically for cloves but the climate is perfect and since Zanzibar was a hub for travelers from all over the globe, other types of spices were brought there and now there’s a ton. I took notes but it’s been a hot minute since I went to the spice farm in August so my information might be not quite accurate. I hold the right to be incorrect. Please research on your own time.

But first, please look at this attempt to hide some pipes in my hotel room.

Just leave the exposed pipe and box and paint it white! What is this giant wooden atrocity? I would have probably never noticed the pipe but I sure as hell noticed whatever this is.

The tiniest of friends in my room:

Look at this bird that was outside my room. He was fancy and multicolored.

And the weaverbirds that were guarding their weaver-nests. The red eyes made them look crazy.

Okay, onto spices and fruits grown in Zanzibar based on my notes and photos.


– The largest tree-growing fruit. I think watermelon is the biggest fruit all around.

– Originally from India.

– It has kind of a decaying onion smell on the outside.

– The fruit grows wherever on the tree – branches, trunk, etc. 

A picture I found online of the all-over-growing.

– The wood is resistant to termites and fungus and the charcoal keeps insects away.

– The fruit secretes a sticky glue similar to latex when cut into so the natives rub coconut oil on their hands before they eat it.


– Looks like it would be in the same fruit group as jackfruit but isn’t.

– Delicious custard-like fruit but it is forbidden in trains, flights, hotels because the smell is ROUGH. The general consensus is that it smells like sweaty socks and rotting vegetation. Most people can separate the taste experience (very good) from the smell experience (extremely bad). I found this quote on the and felt the need to share:

“Some think that durian also tastes terrible, comparing it to ‘the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction,’ but the majority of others are actually quite taken by its unique flavor, calling it ‘indescribable’ and likening it to ‘sweet almondine onion-sherry chocolate mousse with hints of garlic and farts.’”


– It’s a rhizome. Very orange. 

– If you cut your finger with a knife, you put the turmeric powder in the wound and it (supposedly) helps with the skin healing.


– From India and Indonesia.

– Grows on what vaguely resembles bamboo. The seeds lay on the ground.

– Part of the ginger family.

– You eat the seeds but you can use the pods to make infusions or put them in a pouch in your closet.


– This was a shocker. It grows in what looks like a quince / pear. The nutmeg looks fine but it’s surrounded by a hot pink plastic string thing and that’s mace. If you showed it to me without me seeing them pull it off a branch I would have called you a liar and a fraud because that does not look real.

– Originally from Indonesia.

– If you eat too much nutmeg you get high and sometimes you can hallucinate.

– As long as you don’t grind it, the nutmeg can keep its flavor for years in a tight container.


“Lacey membrane” is how it’s often referred to.

– Used for stomach and intestinal woes.

– Tastes like nutmeg but stronger.

– Mace spray is not related to the spice mace, but to the weapon mace. That’s unusual because pepper spray is based on the fruit pepper. I assumed it was the same, as I imagine most others would. We would all be wrong.


– Interestingly, actually a grass because often the names and the named have nothing to do with each other, so that’s a pleasant surprise.

– Often called citronella grass and the locals rub the oil on their skin to keep away bugs.

– Supposed to bring down fever.

– Related to ginger and in no way related to any citrus. Ginger uses the roots and if you look at lemongrass’ root you’ll see it’s similar.

– Two main kinds – one for eating and one for making perfumes.

Bay leaves

– Can suck it. I hate finding it in my food. Stupid piece of cardboard foliage in my stew. 


– Originally from Sri Lanka.

– Not sweet itself but enhances the taste of sweet.

– The whole tree is useful. We’re all familiar with the bark but I learned that the root smells exactly like eucalyptus and since there’s no eucalyptus on the island and Vicks Vaporub is expensive the locals cut some of the root off, put it in a bowl of hot water and then lean over it and breath it in. It helps with head colds and the like. That was the second most surprising thing I learned after the nutmeg-mace.

-Cinnamon tree berries can be used the same way as cloves, studded into oranges or hams or brewed in tea.

– Cinnamon leaves can be used to flavor curries and jerk marinades.

– Cinnamon oil will destroy mosquito larvae and is sometimes used as an antiseptic.

– Buuuut it may also destroy you because it has a chemical in it that might poison and kill you and is not recommended for pregnant women.

– The antiseptic and anti-mosquito quality of the oil is why it’s often found on ancient mummies.


– White peppercorns are the young seed and black peppercorns are the mature seed. They’re the same plant, just picked at a different point in the life cycle. Green peppercorns are in there somewhere too.

– The locals use a tea from pepper leaves to help with the bleeding after a woman gives birth. It helps slow it down and eventually make it stop.

Lipstick plant

– From Central America.

– Looks like a flattened rambutan. Look up rambutans if you don’t know what I’m talking about. A very otherworldly-looking fruit.

– It’s opaque as opposed to turmeric or most other substances so the locals put patterns on their hands and faces and it shows up (because they’re dark and dyes wouldn’t be visible).

– It’s where we get the color annatto which we use to color food. It’s what makes cheddar cheese orange, because it’s actually white.


– From Indonesia.

– It’s the dried unopened flower of a type of myrtle tree.

– It’s the only spice controlled by the government. The Zanzibarians are allowed to sell all the other spices themselves. The rest, the government buys it off of them. If they sell it themselves, they can get fifteen years in prison.

– Clove oil is a numbing agent. It’s used for tooth pain. I tried it, it feels like an extremely strong mint. The Moomins used it as a child and the second she smelled it she said “Dentist!” and you could see the PTSD from her childhood dentistry in the Congo.

– In order to stop diarrhea the locals chew the leaves and it stops the runs in a few minutes.

Iodine tree

– You make a slice in the branch and the healing liquid seeps out. It’s not dark yellow yet. You rub it on your wound vigorously and it makes a whitish foam (kinda feels like latex) and, as we know, helps prevent infection.

– Also has really pretty leaves.

Additional photos from the tour:

Banana plant. You can see how the flowers turn into the fruit.

A strangler fig in full effect.

This fruit tasted like lime but, like the jackfruit, it also grows wherever it wants on the tree.

Look how beautiful these flowers are.

In the background there you will notice a fruit. It’s called a bongo or a tree orange. It is not an orange. It is a rind filled with fruit and snot.

It was super-sour and the slimy texture took a minute to get used to but it was quite tasty.

As we went on the tour everything the guide showed us went into a banana leaf cup. I called it the Cup o’ Smells because it was all the fragrances. Like, all of them, ever.

Here is a more thorough description of the spice farm experience.

The next entry: Stone Town, a UNESCO site.