Thursday, 23 November 2006

Saturday, Nov. 10

The next morning we were off to Prison Island. I’d been there a year and a half ago and I thought renting a boat, snorkeling, seeing the tortoises, etc. might be a fun excursion. Though the weather was a bit sketchy during the day, we ended up having a fun outing. The island had changed considerably since I’d been there with the development of a hotel.

The tortoises were still there and they’d done some procreating while I was away. They’re big and numerous. We were given some greens to feed them and they ended up occupying our attention for the better part of an hour.

We then snooped around the island a bit and then headed out to snorkel. We were out for a bit less than an hour and the sun came out enough to brighten up the colors of the coral reef and the tropical fish. Brett and I had toyed with the idea of diving, which I’ve never done off of Zanzibar, but it didn’t work out. This was a very nice second best.

We then headed back to Stonetown and decided to get a bite to eat. Our selectiveness was limited as we walked 20 feet straight up from where the boat dropped us off. It was next to our hotel and they served beer so we didn’t need to go further. It turned out to be very nice.

The sky opened up with rain shortly after getting sat down and we were told to move indoors though we were protected by umbrellas. We complied and moved to drier surroundings (temporarily) and good music. Towards the end of the meal a flood of water came rushing across the floor. We were moved again to a higher point in the uneven cement floor and women arrived to begin mopping. The whole scene was a bit comical and added to the experience.

During a break in the weather, we ventured out to the shops again briefly and then met up at the Tembo prior to going out for a drink. We decided to head to Mercury’s. It’s a themed restaurant named after the musical group Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Mercury (aka Farok Bulsara) was born in Stonetown back in 1946 and many establishments in town claim affiliation with his short past on the island. He has many “birthplaces” and so forth and it’s not clear nowadays what is truly connected to his past. Not all of the island is proud of their famous son, however. The staunchly Muslim community recently put a stop to festivities honoring the anniversary of the gay singer whose life was cut short due to AIDS.

From there we walked the 20 minutes or so to The Two Tables restaurant. I’d temporarily led us astray (I was a block off) but we eventually found it. I’d been here a long time ago and I was hoping it had kept the charm it had the last time. It had. It’s what it says – two tables. It’s basically someone’s house and they have two large tables reserved for a dozen or so people. You sit with whoever arrives around the same time you do. In our case my friend Lou and his girlfriend coincidentally were there. It was good since I’d been wanting to hang out more with him anyway. Just weird that we showed up to the same place, the same evening.

You enter these peoples’ house, remove your shoes, head up the stairs, cross the living room and have a seat. Some of the family is sitting around watching TV and occasionally they get up to help wash dishes or help out with the meal in some way. This night the older Zanzibari dad did the serving and the mom was in the kitchen doing the cooking. Everyone gets the same food and everyone is served at the same time. If you need to use the restroom, it’s simply the family bathroom. The food was excellent as was the atmosphere. Lou and his girlfriend blended right in with the family (not sure what that says about them).

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