Swahili Coast, April 2005

Well I have arrived on the East African Coast and been transported to a world of Swahili (Arab-African) culture and mystique. This region has a rich history as a crossroads in trade between Africa, Arabia, Persia and India. The Arabic style dhows that still sail these turquoise waters enable you to picture the sailing ships of past that used to ply these waters trading gold, ivory, slaves and spices! The climate is sultry and hot, the people a laidback blend of Arabic descendant Muslims, Indians and Africans, and the architecture wonderful Arabic style whitewashed stone houses, Islamic arches and magnificent carved entry portals reflecting the influence of the Omani empire and the Indian Gujarat traditions.

I spent 4 days on Lamu Island off the North Kenyan coast, and am now on Zanzibar Island, off Tanzania – the site of the old royal court of Oman during the peak of Arabic trade.  Lamu Island feels as though it is little changed today from centuries of old. There are no cars on the island and it is a delight to wander its ancient narrow alleys on foot, dodging only the sturdy donkeys that also tread the paths. I stayed in a three hundred year old Swahili house – my four-poster bed and balcony with sea-views costing me $14 a night, and feasted daily on sweet, buttery mangoes and huge mud crabs (for $10 each!).  I spent a day sailing on one of the dhows – swimming, snorkelling and fishing in the bath-like blue sea. I have finally slowed to the languid pace of the Swahili coast!

I am currently on Zanzibar and continuing to drink in the magnificent surrounds, culture and mystique. Yesterday I spent the day diving from the decks of a grandly carved Jalhazi dhow – the coral reef and fish here the equal (well… almost) of our barrier reef in Australia.  Today I am touring the old spice plantations on the island, then I think another big dinner of mud crab or lobster awaits me tonight!

Well folks, this will be my last travelogue as 2 months seems to have flown by and in 2 days I must leave this magical part of the world to come home. I have met many wonderful people in East Africa and I thank them all for having shepherded me safely through my travels and to have so warmly shown me the best of their countries and culture.  I promise that my next email will end the suspense and be the pictorial story of my adventures in East Africa.

Kwa heri rafiki! Hakuna matata!

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