Stonetown, Zanzibar: A Lesson Learnt

We’d heard a lot about Stonetown, Zanzibar, before we arrived and I couldn’t wait to check it out. The day was incredibly hot; a thick, stuffy heat hung in the air like an oppressive cloud. My first impression of Stonetown was how busy and manic it was; cars honked continuously and would snake past you in the smallest of gaps.

Our first stop was checking out the local market. Stonetown,Zanzibar, is famous for its Darajani Market where you can purchase everything from clothing, to local fruits to electronics. The market was teeming with life; the stools were piled high with goods and street sellers would try every trick in the book to indulge you in conversation. The brightly coloured stools, orange sand floor and bright blue sky have made the Darajani markets stand out as a colourful adventure in my mind.


As the midday heat crept up, we decided to grab a taxi to the waterfront and check out the restaurant called “Archipelago’s” that had been recommended to us. At this point I was ready to keel our with dehydration and the thought of an ice cold coke cracking open made the quoted price of 5,000 TSH seem very reasonable indeed! The taxi driver’s friend – Eddie, was in the front seat, and immediately interrogated us about our stay in Stonetown, Zanzibar.

By this point, we’d been in Zanzibar for long enough to be familiar with the locals’ tactics and we knew to tell him that we were due to “leave tomorrow” before he started trying to sell us tours, excursions, taxi rides and his mother’s goat. As it turned out, we played our cards just right: Eddie was the “owner” of a car and scooter rental company, and he was hugely disappointed at our imminent departure.

Future Vacation Plans

He proceeded to try and entice us back to Zanzibar for our “next holiday” advising that we should call him “straight away” in order to secure our “scooter hire.” And with that he jumped out of the car, pressing dog eared business cards into our hands. It left the well-known description of Zanzibar’s as somewhat “opportunistic” ringing loudly in our ears.

Eddie wasn’t gone for long, however. Two minutes later he was back again, pointing to a Jeep on the road in front of us, explaining that it was “one of his cars.” There seemed to be a lot of commotion surrounding the car Eddie had just pointed to, and as we honked, weaved and barged through near stationary cars, it became apparent that there had been an accident.

There was a huge lorry lying diagonally in the road surrounded by shiny red tape, and next to it was the Jeep; a Western woman sat behind the wheel whilst her partner was caught in the wrath of the lorry driver who was screaming angrily at him to go to the police station; a whole herd of locals had gathered around the scene, pointing, shouting and jeering.

There appeared to be no damage done to the Jeep and the man, who was arguing back, appeared not to think he was in the wrong, and to prove his point, boldly plucked his SLR camera from the passenger seat and began wildly snapping photos from every possible angle!  


As we edged away from the scene, two things became very clear:
·         Be very careful about renting vehicles in Africa
·         Especially from Eddie’s car rentals!

A travel blog post by Eva. I'm a Polish born traveler, travel photographer, writer and runner living in Montreal Canada. In the 10-plus years that I've been travelling, living and exploring various travel destinations, I've explored much of the America’s, Europe and the Caribbean Islands.


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