Everything, barring the intensely turquoise waters of the Indian ocean, felt startlingly familiar. The sultry weather, the spicy coconut infused curries, the colorful attire, the ornately chiseled doors. Even the traditional game of Bao.
My Indianness, and the fact that I had grown up watching monsoon winds billowing the lateen sails of Arab dhows and dreaming of following in the wake of mythical adventurers, diluted much of Zanzibar’s cliched otherness for me.
And yet my fascination wasn’t diminished.
For the labyrinthine alleyways of Stone Town, the historic urban centre of Zanzibar island or Unguja, evoke a history of cultural confluence like no other. A common, cosmopolitan identity forged over centuries by the melding of indigenous tribes with early Arab settlers, Persian Shirazis, Portuguese conquerors, Omani sultans, Indian traders and British colonialists. Along with a number of European explorers lured by the wealth of the archipelago and the mystique of the dark continent.
The name, redolent of hype and romance, is believed to be derived from the Persian Zanj – a corruption of…
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