It’s hard not to fall for the lived-in, Middle East-meets-tropical-Africa charms of Zanzibar. Without romanticizing the poverty that many of the island’s inhabitants suffer, or overlooking the neglect that has caused UNESCO to threaten to remove the island’s historic old town from its list of World Heritage Sites, the island positively oozes a kind of otherworldly charm. It’s made all the more palpable by decades of decay and the sheer weight of the history the island carries; you smell it in the labyrinth-like alleyways of the old town after the rains, you see it in the peeling paints and crumbling facades of the buildings, and perhaps most arrestingly in the unusual ethnic diversity of this small island – from Arabs to Africans and all shades in between. You can also just feel it. It’s history you don’t have to read about or intellectualize – it’s just there, each and every day, staring straight at you as you stare back in awe.
A Christmas unlike any other: cinnamon daiquiris in lieu of glögg, a Zanzibari dinner-a-deux instead of a turkey feast with the family, snow-white sand and a gleaming turquoise ocean instead of the cozy, candle-lit darkness of December up North. It’s a relaxed, unselfconscious slice of paradise, enveloped in a soothing breeze that makes missing all that familiar festiveness back home somehow alright.
As Masaai-for-hire wander the beaches one last time before the sun sets, and we settle in for our happy hour daiquiris, this balmy breeze makes me think: if heaven had a temperature, this would surely be it.
We’re there with you in spirit, miss you today more than ever and send lots of warm vibes and love your way. Have a merry one.