Last week, I began a tale of what will happen to you in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and today, I continue the tale. Remember Abdul? Well, as you walk with him around this history-rich destination, you’ll realize that you can get lost here. There are lots of houses. You could pass them a thousand times over. But these stone-solid architectural delights with fading colors will never bore you. To you, they’ll look like art against the backdrop of Zanzibar’s serene, blue sky. Let’s explore some more, shall we?
The different faces will intrigue you with their unexpected similarity so much that you’ll bet you’ve seen this or that face many times. That hedge of a mustache. That white, stubbly beard. That curved nose. That kohl-shaded gaze. That red-lipped smile. It will feel like a thousand déjà vu. That’s the magic of Stone Town.
Check out more sights to discover in Stone Town, Zanzibar…
#1. The temples of worship
You will see a cathedral and Abdul will tell you how old it is. Of course, you’ll believe him because such a proud beauty resembles a masterwork from centuries ago. As you walk along, you’ll hear a muezzin’s shimmying cry and soon you’ll see the minarets jutting out in the distance. But that’s not all. You’ll yet see a magnificent Hindu temple ahead, and you’ll realize how beautiful it is — how this piece of Indian architecture adds to the glorious, collective memory of Stone Town.
#2. Freddie Mercury
Soon Adbul will tell you about one Freddie Mercury. “You’ve heard of him, haven’t you?” he will ask. Well, it depends on when you were born. If you’re a Generation X person, you should know about Freddie Mercury. If you’re Generation Y, there’s a fair chance you’ve heard about him. But if you’re Generation Z, you probably knew nothing about Freddie Mercury before the Golden Globe-winning movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released. But no matter what generation you belong in, there’s no need to worry. Abdul, our Zanzibari tourist guide, will bring you up to date.
“Freddie was a rock star,” he will tell you. “A big icon. He was the lead singer of a popular British band called Queen …”
He will go on and on about the iconic singer. He will tell you that Freddie had four extra incisors, cropped his hair short, and wore a thick mustache. He will also tell you about Queen’s electrifying performance at Live Aid and how Freddie’s voice blazed into immortality. But what you may not have known is that Freddie wasn’t Freddie Mercury when he was born. “The name Freddie Mercury was for music, not for Zanzibar,” Abdul will say. Then he will start talking about one famous Bulsara family of Indian origin; he will add the names Bomi Bulsara and Jer Bulsara. He will start to describe how this family left India to settle on the beautiful island of Zanzibar. “Bomi Bulsara worked for the British. He went on a trip back home in India, married Jer, and brought her to Zanzibar.”
And while you try to make sense of all that this glib tourist guide is blabbing about, he will declare to you: “Bomi Bulsara and Jer Bulsara had a son here in Zanzibar. They called him Farrokh Bulsara. Later on, the family ran to Britain and Farrokh Bulsara became Freddie Mercury.”
At this point, your mouth will be agape with wonder. “So Freddie Mercury is Zanzibari,” the tourist guide will say. “He was born here. He is ours. You see why I was telling you about the Bulsaras.”
#3. Freddie Mercury’s House
But it will be hard to resist the cajoling skills of our tourist guide, who eggs you on to see just a bit of the Freddie Mercury House. “You cannot come to Zanzibar and not see that,” he will say, shaking his head. So you will say, “Okay, but just a brief stopover.” Our tourist guide will nod and say, “We won’t kill time there.”
You will stop in front of an off-white building that says:
TEMBO HOUSE HOTEL
FREDDIE MERCURY HOUSE
On its walls are brown showcases full of black-and-white photographs of Freddie Mercury. You will look and look, your eyes filling with awe, wondering if Freddie was lurking behind the brown door of the building, smiling, a microphone in hand, about to sing your name. Take as many photos as you can. Make sure Freddie’s name is captured in the background; his iconic pictures too. You will treasure them when you get home. Then you will say to whoever cares to listen, “I visited Stone Town, Zanzibar, and saw the house of Freddie Mercury!”
#4. Forodhani Gardens Food Market
As you are getting absorbed by the charm of the Freddie Mercury House, our tourist guide will sidle towards you and say, almost in a whisper, “There is one more place you should see at sunset.” “Where?” you will ask. “Forodhani Gardens Food Market,” he will say. “Let us go.”
Every night, Forodhani Gardens bursts into a busy street food market! From fresh seafood caught in the surrounding Indian Ocean to the local delicacies such as Zanzibari pizza that ignite all the senses, this market is worth a visit, especially if you’re a foodie. Ensure that you walk by the seafront watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean while sampling street food.
Soon, you’ll be glad that you paid this destination a visit.
Featured image: @_nassder/Instagram
Continue reading Part III of this series here:
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A writer fascinated by humanity and diversity. He is the author of Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country.