🇹🇿 First Month in Zanzibar
I can't believe it's been a month in Tanzania. Check out the latest.
My wife and I have always had the thought of living in Tanzania. So when the opportunity arose, we decided to take it. On the 19th of February, we embarked on that journey. We plan to stay in Tanzania for six months. Starting in February and ending in August, God knows if we’ll make it till then. But I'll be documenting my stay for those who are also curious about returning to their Motherland or just want to experience life in Tanzania.
Here we go 🚀
Breakdown of Tanzania and Zanzibar
Tanzania and Zanzibar are one country based on a union formed in the 1960s. Zanzibar is officially a semi-autonomous region, it has its own Parliament, but all major decisions are made through the main government in Tanzania. Zanzibar is an island of the east coast of mainland Tanzania, and it is only a 1hr 45min boat road to and from. To differentiate the two, Tanzania is usually referred to as mainland or Bongo, and Zanzibar is Zanzibar.
So Zanzibar has all sorts of different regions. My wife and I are in Unguja, Stown Town, which outsiders usually refer to when saying Zanzibar. During my two week holiday, we travelled to the North of Zanzibar, Nungwi, which had unimaginable beaches.
Our three main goals in staying in Tanzania.
- Connect with our families
Since that would have been nearly impossible if we had taken the conventional route of booking a two week holiday at work and travelling to three different locations in Tanzania to meet each other’s families (excluding my family in Burundi).
- Understand life in Tanzania
Is our dream of living here viable? Are we able to adjust to a completely new country? What is needed for us to build a home and have a family here. What would we be trading off in the UK in return for TZ? Where in Tanzania should we live (it’s a huge country, plus family politics comes into play). We want to have answers to all these sorts of questions when we leave this beautiful country.
- Set out a road map for our Solar Panel idea
My wife and I have always dreamed of having a business where we provide electricity to the country via solar panels. Alhamdulillah, we’ve made a lot of inroads into this idea, and I’ll create a separate piece for that 👀.
I believe in starting with the negative and then ending with the positive.
When most people think about Africa, the first thing that comes into mind is civil conflict and political instability. Bear in mind that Africa as a continent hasn’t had any World Wars & the borders on the map are artificial, meaning they are not reflective of previous tribal land & clans. The horrors of colonisation created ethnic fragmentation. That is a topic for another day. But the main point is that the majority of African countries are pretty chill.
When I talk about security, I mean pickpockets & thieves. Most people reading will probably stay in hotels with their own external security. But, it’s vital that any guest entering Tanzania be vigilant of any opportunity they may be presenting to potential thieves.
I personally would always advise ensuring your pouch is in front of your body rather than behind you. Ensure if you are wearing a backpack you're not carrying major valuables inside it, i.e. phone, passport etc.
⚠️ ALWAYS LOCK YOUR ROOM! ⚠️
Don’t ever trust anyone like that to leave your hotel or bedroom door open; you don’t know who’s coming in or out of that hotel.
When you're going to a Masjid, I will always advise don’t leave your shoes outside. You most likely won’t find them when you finish praying. Some Masjids have boxes for shoes inside but not all. Just bring casual sandals and put them somewhere in a safe area.
Zanzibar is generally really safe; I use my phone out in the open. I haven’t been robbed, or no one has attempted to rob me. I still have the sandals that I came with. But always be vigilant, it is consuming on the mind, but it will soon become second nature. Even locals will advise you to be careful. Because most thieves here are opportunists and would only rob you if the chance presents itself, always be smart, vigilant, and careful.
Security, in this case, means ensuring the safety of important assets. One major asset is your health, particularly your tummy 🤮.
There is no regulator for food hygiene in Tanzania, so most places do their own thing when cooking food. So it’s imperative wherever you go to eat to ensure it is safe. To know whether it is safe or not, if you see tourists eating there, then it’s usually blessed. Or you can go inside and see how they cook and decide for yourself.
For me, this has been the hardest thing to adjust to. Because I love Tanzanian food, but the level of hygiene at some places is atrocious based on what I’m used to in the UK. The locals eat wherever because their bodies have become accustomed to it. But for those from outside, don’t try to imitate locals. Your body ain’t ready for it.
I had a cheesecake from a place that looked pretty boujee. The cake was pretty dead, and I ended up not finishing it. Come fajr the next day; I didn’t have a pleasant time in the bathroom. My body fully rejected what I had eaten the previous day, and I felt the full effects. It took me two days to recover. It’s slyly inevitable that you're going to eat something that your body just ain’t used to, so I fully recommend buying this & this. They fully help you recover whenever your body can’t take it.
In Tanzania, there are four main lines that I know. Vodacom, Airtel, Zantel, & Halotel. You can ask 100 different people what’s the best line for the Internet, and each one of them will tell you something different. I’m currently on Vodacom because I just took my mum's SIM card & it’s been working okay in terms of the internet.
I came to Zanzibar knowing that the internet wouldn’t be that great because most people in Tanzania know that Zanzibar doesn’t have the best infrastructure. But it hasn’t been as bad as I imagined. In the heart of Stone Town, I regularly get full bars of 4G connection, can hold good video and voice calls and have no problem doing regular browsing and sending photos/videos via WhatsApp.
The major hurdle comes when you're trying to use any other device other than a phone. Wi-Fi is really not a thing here, and the infrastructure is not built to allow for fibre optic within households. Of course, if you got the money, you can do it. The majority of hotels and established restaurants have Wi-Fi & my granddad on my wife’s side has decent Wi-Fi in his office. But for me and my apartment in Stown Town.
- My internet connection is sporadic in different places in the house. By the balcony, I get no reception. In my room I get three bars of 4G.
- Because there is no Wi-Fi, I’m not able to properly use my laptop or Apple TV. For work, I usually hotspot from my phone. When I’m on 4G, this allows me to use my laptop, but the internet speed ain’t great.
- You’ll usually find that the top internet connection is near Government buildings due to the buildings having proper infrastructure to facilitate government demands.
So yeah, it’s really frustrating because it’s become an impediment to me actually writing my blogs. I wanted to post a gallery of images of my time in Zanzibar, but I’m having a problem uploading them because of the internet connection. So I’ve decided to spend around £100 to get someone to install Wi-Fi in my apartment, so hopefully, sometime this week or next, I’ll be able to post that blog and have smooth internet at home. I’m only making that investment because I’m going to be here for a bit, but for someone on holiday, try to stay at a hotel with solid Wi-Fi & your internet needs should be met.
This is not that deep, but deep. In terms of washing clothes, I completely forgot that most houses don’t have washing machines, so they get people to wash clothes. Unfortunately, this is one thing that automated machines are much better at due to the certainty that there will be little error. But with humans, you must always account for error hence having some clothes that are not fully clean, in turn, leaving me incredibly frustrated when it comes to ironing them when I need to go out. Sometimes people do a poor job and essentially steal your money. Again, if you got the money ain’t no problem, but I ain’t willing to invest in a washing machine like that despite my urge to. But for guys on holiday bring enough clothes for your short stay because you can’t be fully sure whether where you are staying has a washing machine or not.
From a mental standpoint adapting to the lifestyle in Tanzania hasn’t been too difficult for me. But my body has found it challenging in dealing with the weather.
Zanzibar is regularly 29 to 30 degrees celsius, and my skin has found it difficult in dealing with that, having been in a cold country for such a long time. My skin on my hands and feet have been peeling, despite me putting on sunscreen.
I’ve never had this problem before. So it’s been hard trying to identify whether the cause is down to weather, harsh soap, or do I genuinely have an issue inside me. My dry skin wasn't healing when starting to writing this piece, but Alhamdulillah as of now my hand has 85% recovered. I used MIGH-TEA MOISTURE BODY BALM, which changed everything. Honestly got me thinking about wanting to invest in her company; I know the owner recently went on Dragons Den, but if she’s looking for investors, holla because I’m fully down, despite being broke.
Tanzania's show of affection
Most Tanzanians/ Africans will usually tell me to be prepared to be sick because the environment is totally different from anywhere else: the heat, humidity, water, and food. Especially in Stone Town, because the pavements are narrow and the houses extremely congested, you breathe in unclear air due to people doing construction work or having a BBQ. Your nose ends up with a load of crap which you ain’t used to. This happened to me, and I had the flu and a sore throat. So one thing I changed was I began having a shower just before I went to bed, so I’ve cleansed my body of all dust particles and dirt. I don’t know if biology adds up, but meh, it has helped.
Plus, the say the sickness that you may get is usually Africa’s way of saying ‘Welcome’ 😂🙄
I love eating, but in Zanzibar, you gotta eat heavy, man. Otherwise, you won’t make it. The heat takes a lot out of you. You can go for a walk during the day and come back completely drained because the heat has taken so much out of you. So I’ve adjusted my eating schedule to eat three heavy meals a day. I'm fortunate to have family members who cook for me, so I don’t worry about that. Plus, drink a lot of water.
Again I can’t help but mention the immense privilege I’m living with because people within the same country that I’m in are not as fortunate as me in having the certainty that their going to eat every day. So I think Allah abundantly for the blessings he has bestowed upon me and my family.
Let's get into the positives now 😃
One of the most enjoyable things about living in Zanzibar is that I feel comfortable and normal. On very few occasions, I have felt like an outsider, although my Kiswahili makes it very obvious that I’m not a local.
I feel at ease when I step outside the door, despite me wearing a Kanzu one day and Cargo pants another. Usually, in the UK, because of the hostile political nature, in turn, societal unease & somewhat vilification for externally publicising that your Muslim, i.e. Kanzu, Hijab, Niqab etc., you feel soo out of place and isolated as soon as you step out the door and you feel those piercings eyes of condemnation and as the day goes on the weight of alienation can be too much. But mate here ain’t none of that. I usually bop out in my Kanzu with ease because:
- It’s normal to wear a Kanzu in Zanzibar; a lot of people do
- Because Masjids are literally everywhere and the Azan is played out loud - that sense of loneliness doesn’t exist.
That final point of Masjids being all over his place is actually really 🔥. Because not all the Masjids are all the same shape, size, and decoration, it makes it a whole experience when you enter a new Masjid, especially since Stown Town is such a congested space, you're surprised about how some Masjids are built within certain locations. One Masjid next to Jaws Corner (I call it ACT Wazalendo corner), the entrance is something out of Narnia, you expect a small Masjid, but you're happily surprised at the enormous inside.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of my time in Zanzibar because it is not something you can do in the UK. I have four Masjids a three min walk from my apartment. Because of the nice weather doing Wudu at the Masjid ain’t a real difficulty & plus, changing up where you pray is a bit of an Imam boost and refresher, if that makes any sense; just seeing something different regularly keeps that sense of excitement and want to go to the Masjid.
- The majority of Masjids here don’t have facilities for women.
- Different madhab practices can be done in one Masjid. For example, I prayed at Bakhresa Masjid on Thursday, and the Imam said Salaam on both the right and left-hand sides of his shoulder to finish the prayer. In the same Masjid on Jummah prayer, the Ibadi Imam finishes the prayer with Salaam only on his right-hand shoulder. That practice is very normal here.
I can’t speak on behalf of women about how comfortable they may feel if they came to Zanzibar, but all I can really mention is that nearly all the women in Zanzibar wear hijabs with a couple wearing Niqabs. Which may make Muslim women feel comfortable. I don’t have much to say here since I honestly can’t speak on behalf of another gender.
But one issue I do have is the fact that local men love to stare at ‘new’ women. I’ve noticed that when walking or standing with my wife, other men like to stare at my wife, and it’s one of those long looks, no blinking halal stares. I usually stare back at them, letting them know wagwan, and they turn away. But it’s very normal for men to stare and chat to you if they see you are alone, but if you cut it off ASAP, they usually kick rocks. Outside of that issue, it’s blessed.
The ease of religious practice for Muslims in Zanzibar is not done at the expense of other religious groups. From what I’ve experienced here in Zanzibar, religious freedom is given to all, and I have not heard or witnessed persecution or hostility towards any other religious groups within the country.
In the Global North (UK, Europe, and North America), they get so engulfed in selling that they are a ‘multicultural society’ despite every minority knowing that the country is not. But in Africa, because of the establishment of colonial artificial borders, most African nations have been forced to live in a multicultural society. The majority of them have been doing a decent job at it. Plus, you have Tanzanians of Arab and Indian descent, which is normal; they are seen and treated as any other Tanzanian. Yeah, Africa has been a multicultural society for some time, and they’ve been doing a pretty good job.
Enjoyment of life 🥰
I just finished work; I came home to drop off my stuff, went out again to the Masjid to pray to Isha & thought to myself, I wanna go to the beach. I bought a Mango Passion smoothie and a rice cake for £1 and walked to the Beach front, which took me two mins. I sat on the beach wall, drinking my smoothie and eating my rice cake while staring at the waves of the clear ocean water.
You can only imagine how relaxing that is. Having the ability to witness the beauty of Allah’s creation regularly does wonders for your mental health. I’ve noticed that I’m no longer shrouded by the stresses of everyday life, i.e. bills, uncertainty at work, family drama etc. I’m just enjoying my life and what God has given me. Furthermore, being around nature, greenery, and on the odd occasion seeing animals automatically switches my mind to a point of reflection and contemplation, which is somewhat surreal at times. I’ll just be walking on the beachfront during the day, and my mind would take me elsewhere, thinking about positive thoughts, goals, and dreams. Or when I’m taking a boat to an island during the journey, I’m staring down at the clear blue sea, the feeling of the water skimming through each of my fingers takes me to a place of full positivity and enjoyment.
That mental transformation of knowing that there are concerns in your life, but the environment I’m currently in allows me to not overwhelm myself with them but deal with them in a calm and extremely relaxed manner.
I’ve noticed that even my militant routines that I’ve always lived by in the UK have been tough to live by because you take things as they come, and despite the delays and general slowness, you go with it.
That mental shift is what I’ve been craving for. Ever since I finished my Master's and got married. Everything was becoming too much; it just felt like day after day, problems kept coming. It was becoming an unbearable feeling, especially in the covid climate of not having the ability to leave the UK for some time. In Zanzibar, Life challenges still come, but at least I’m in an environment that is uplifting and good for my mental well-being.
This is my first time in Zanzibar & I don’t have any family here except for my in-laws. From reading that you would assume, based on what people say about in-laws, I’ll be living a nightmare. But Alhamdulillah, that is not the case.
My wife’s family has been extremely loving and caring. Last Sunday, I spent Lunch and the rest of the day at my Babu (Grandad) house with all my Uncles, Aunties and my cousins. It was such a blessing and a wonderful experience. Just having that ability to be with them like that is something to cherish because the vibe is one of comfort, harmony, and unity. It’s a true blessing that will live long in the memory.
Despite not seeing my own family who lives in Shinyanga (North of Tanzania), just knowing that they are close by makes things more comfortable. I really miss them, and I can’t wait to see them after Eid In Sha Allah.
When I assess my two week holiday and one month stay here among my goals, I would say that I’m on track for achieving the two first goals. The third is slowly progressing but not as much as I would have liked. I’ve had conversations with my uncles who are in construction, but I have a feeling Allah has a plan for me. In addition, I’m trying to keep my eyes, ears, and mind open to different business opportunities.
I’ve loved my time here; I’m extremely looking forward to spending Ramadan and Eid here. The vibe is already different; FYI, Tanzania is starting Ramadan on Saturday night/Sunday. Yeah, it’s a whole load of religious politics.
But it’s not all plain sailing. My wife has found it difficult to adjust, especially to the heat, so different people will have completely different experiences. So don’t think that you’ll share my same experiences if you come here.
But as a holiday destination, I highly recommend Zanzibar, especially for Muslim families; I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy it. Just ensure you plan what you want to do ahead of time; otherwise, you’ll just get bumped (everything will be sold to you at extortionate prices)
That’s me & I’ll see you for the next Tanzanian update
Love & Ramadan Mubarak ✌🏾🤗