THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2017
According to our printed itinerary for the week, each morning we were to meet for breakfast between 7:00 – 8:30 am. Our days were neatly compartmentalized for us, and it was a matter of simply showing up at the time indicated. This however meant that I had to purposefully set my alarm clock to make sure I did not miss the boat (shuttle, or meal.) It had been a while since I was that ready to go to bed like I was the night before. I didn’t have any problems with being tired enough to go to sleep. I was fortunate that so far, even with the lack of a night’s sleep on the 20+ hours on a plane, I was adjusted to the time change and had not suffered from any clear signs of jet lag. It is always to be expected that the hotel bed will feel way more comfortable than mine, and I will have that added touch of comfort while I sleep soundly. In my dreams, I was probably floating on a cloud most of the night and into the early hours of the mourning until approximately 5:15 am. Before the sun rose, it was time for the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer. This would be the first one (of 5) of the day called the Fajr, which starts off the day with the remembrance of God. Hearing the call to prayer by the muezzin (the mosque's designated caller of prayer) has been on my bucket list. I have heard it on tv and in movies, but had always wanted to hear it in person. To me, there had always been this melodic mystique to it that transcended religion. My eyes and ears opened as it fell softly on the silence of sleeping Stone Town. Just as much as it startled me out of my sleep, it quickly lulled me back. I always thought it was entrancing. Perhaps it was because I don’t understand the language, or it’s the natural metrical rhythm. The call ended, and I dozed back to sleep tickled having had one more thing crossed off my bucket list, well two, because I not only did I hear it in person, but I heard it while waking in Africa.
Between the initial wake up by the Adhan and the alarm clock, there was an hour left of sleep to be had. I was not interested in having to rush that morning, so I decided to be a little kinder on myself with the time. Because breakfast was a few floors above, I only took up what I needed to eat, which was practically nothing, but the clothes on my back. The tangerine glow of the sun was reflecting off the white plaster walls of the atrium as I walked up the two flights of steps to the terrace. The staff at the hotel was already buzzing around in the hallways and stairwells making everything look shiny and new. At the door to the rooftop were friendly faces. “Jambo. Jambo.” When I turned the corner, I could see a long table set for a group with some of my travel mates already seated, beginning their day. As I greeted them, I noticed they all had the same look on their face – a little tired, but in good spirits, ready for what the day ahead. We were positioned towards the back, close to the buffet spread, forming the shape of the letter “P,” with our long table being the leg. From the top of the leg, going in a clockwise direction was the coffee and tea service, lined up next to the bread, pastry and cold cereal. Around the smaller side was the manned omelet station, the fresh fruits, spreads and toppings that needed to stay cold in the refrigeration case. Rounding that out was the double juice station, followed by the long row of hot items staying warm under cover.
Chicken sausage, Indian dishes with potatoes and vegetables. I can’t even remember where I started, but I know I ended happy. This was by far, and still to this day the best coffee and possibly breakfast I have ever had consistently. On its own merit, the coffee was strong and delicious and for a first in my life, I drank it with no cream or sugar, on purpose. I officially became a purist. There was no need to spoil it. If I had to compare it to something, I would say it wasn’t too different than a chai tea. It was that good that I had to look at it in the cup a few times because it seemed too good to be true.
Our group took turns eating, and sampling things for the first time, talking about current events, politics, jet-lag and life in general. One by one, the remaining travel mates arrived, including our guide and trip photographer. The ambiance couldn’t have been any more rejuvenating. The terrace was open to the elements from almost all sides on the entire level, with canopies flapped over on the side, blocking off the rising sun, with a roof here and there. With the roof top pool, plus the music piped in on speakers, made you feel like you are at the chillest Euro- lounge this side of the Indian Ocean. It was the right pace to touch the dancer inside of you, but slow enough that you didn’t find yourself unconsciously forcing food into your mouth at an unhealthy pace. The wait staff politely removed the demolished plates casted off, and offered to get more coffee. While we concluded our meal and conversations, our guide went over the plan for the day.
Today, we were going to one of the cultural riches of Zanzibar, a working spice farm. We were told to meet at the lobby of the hotel around 9:00 am to board the shuttle bus. We took the short break to go back to our rooms to refresh, or grab anything that we needed. There wasn’t much that I needed. For me, it was another double check. The shuttle was not far from the entrance of the hotel as we stepped back out into the world of Stone Town. Already, the locals were moving and shaking, preparing for a new day. Our ride would be about an hour further into Zanzibar. Streets were packed from side to side and back to front. Looking out the window was its own form of entertainment – true reality television, the kind where people aren’t pretending to live a “normal,” life. There were children by the hundreds, dare I say thousands plugging up the sidewalks and crossing streets. What at first seemed normal quickly became a mental double check. It was the end of July right? But these are clearly children going to school. Boys had on dark pants and light colored shirts. The girls had on dark skirts/dresses with white hijabs. Are these kids in school year round? They didn’t seem upset about it. In fact, for the most part, they all looked extremely happy. Boys had the look of talking sh*t to each other. In stark contrast, the girls looked very endearing with each other. Most were holding hands with each other, with a deep sincerity as they talked. I found this open physical expression lovely.