Thursday 26 May 2011

Zanzibar, Where the Divers Are

A few days ago, my brother rang from Zanzibar. Ready at the computer in an internet cafe, he wanted to know the places my father remembered from his childhood there. Father was born in Zanzibar, the eighth child, when a strange thing occurred. An elderly couple begged my grandparents to let them keep my father for a while. They were childless themselves. Incredibly my grandfather agreed, and for three blissful years, while my grandparents returned to Bombay, my father lived the high life, treated like a prince, his every whim catered to, by his besotted adoptive parents. He still has his whims catered to now, of course, but ah! Them were the days...

Zanzibar. The name conjures magic, of sultans and slaves, of nutmeg and cloves; my father running wild in the playground of Mnazi Mmouja, devouring machunga that dripped sweet lemony tang from his lips. Say, "Machunga," and he is a child in Zanzibar, where the carvings are, where my grandfather Chief Justice Tayab Ali, held forth at the High Court; the building would perhaps be unrecognisable to him now... marked by age and ruin. But Zanzi means 'rusted iron'... perhaps the city is more beautiful now? I can only imagine the Old Stone Town, The Beit-el-Ajaib or House of Wonders where the Sultan lived, the dugouts and dhows, the sugarcane juice stands... a fleeting glimpse of the extinct Zanzibar Leopard...

My brother dives into those sparkling waters now, to retrieve memories for our father. It is not thundering with rain in England as I write. It is a deluge of African sun, and a little boy looking forward to the happy spoils of love.
Images from Lonely Planet


  1. such exotic images....and a strange story that is still being written....The heat from the African sun can be felt here in rainy Canada too....

  2. I love how Zanzibar rolls off the tongue. It does conjue images of all things exotic.

  3. Sigh. I do my vicarious traveling through your site and your brothers' journeys. Such a wonderful tale of happy childhood remembered......such exotic places. Lovely that your brother is now exploring Zanzibar!

  4. shaista, when i dive into the ocean of a story like this i have no wish to return to the surface for air! steven

  5. What a great story and description of Zanzibar and your Fathers early life there.

    You are always amazing to me.

  6. Oh what a fantasy, I want to fall into a long story with these images and textures. Your fortunate father!

  7. I head a voice saying "ohhhhhh" when I looked at the pictures, and then I realized it was me...!

    How absolutely lovely. And what a wonderful story.

    It's so nice to see you again. I haven't had time to visit many blogs lately.

  8. Exotic indeed.

  9. what evocative words and what dreamy images! A gloriously exotic post!
    (No sun in this part of Africa, today, just grey and rain - rather English, in fact!) :-)