In Kendwa we filled in a gap in the airbnb’s schedule, so we could only stay for the 8 nights that we spent there. We decided that we would stay the last 2 nights that we have on the island in Stone Town, before heading off to Asia. We arrived by taxi (Yahya took us) and drove through all the familar sights. We passed restaurants that we had eaten at, drove by the Forodhani gardens and past the old fort, and finally parked near our hostel. It turns out that the hostel was in fact right next door to the first place we stayed.
We unloaded our stuff from the car, and started the walk to the Bottoms Up hostel. I recognized people on the streets, playing, talking, and resting in the same places and streets where I had seen them playing, talking, and resting a whole month ago. A Maasai man that we had passed numerous times welcomed us into his shop. It was like we had never left. Things didn’t seem to have changed.
We checked in to Bottoms Up hostel, saw our rooms, and took our bottoms up to the roofdeck. It was not fancy, but it felt good to be in a foreign place, on the other side of the planet from home, and knowing the way around. It was home away from home. We had spent a long time here, and knew every twist and turn of almost all the alleyways that swerved in between the tall, tin-roofed, stone buildings.
On the roofdeck I looked out at the vast expanse of slanted tin roofs, gray pigeons flying from ledge to ledge. I looked down, to a narrow street, and watched as two men talked, probably just about life, like I had seen so many people do last time we were in Stone Town.
The tallest things in sight were the churches and mosques. But even taller still were the cellphone towers. Religion was still a big part of life here, but as important as the divine faiths that have lingered here for centuries was the cellphone signal. It’s true–people need it. They need it so much that the towers stand taller than the church steeples and mosque towers.
99% of Zanzibar is Islamic, but there are traces of other religions. David Livingstone and other British figures that lived here were Christian, so there are two, and only two churches in the whole of Stone Town. On our walk to the hostel, there was a little sign off to the side of the road that said Jain Temple. So there isn’t only just Islam and a teeny bit of Christianity, but also a little temple dedicated to Janism on the side of the road.
We think the owner of Bottoms Up hostel is probably Hindu, because outside there are Hindu mango leaves hung up, inside there is a framed Hindu symbol, there is a calendar with a Hindu man on it, and the woman on the second floor has a hindi on her forehead.
I see more coming back for the second time, and it is hard to imagine that are leaving, because we’ve been here for so long. We have sorted out the Asia part of our trip, so we know exactly where we are going, and I want and don’t want to leave.
Below: Stone Town