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Trip 25 -- Zanzibar Walk

Day 15: Stone Town to airport
Saturday, March 6, 2021

Yesterday: 9667 steps/7.90 km/4.91 mi/1h 20m
Grand total: 365781 steps/279.50 km/173.67 mi/53h 27m

On my final Zanzibar night, I attended a taarab concert at the Dhow Countries Music Academy. The ensemble consisted of two violins, an accordion, an oud (lute), a qanun (zither), and a tabla (drum). The opening and closing songs were instrumental, while the middle songs featured either the accordion player, singing as he played, or one of two female singers, who sat behind him while waiting their turns.

They were love songs, with sung sections interspersed with long instrumental interludes. The male singer and one of the female singers were animated, sometimes smiling, while the other singer displayed little noticeable emotion. The melodic instruments often were in unison, with occasional qanun harmonies in sixths, and the unison passages had a raw, personal feel to them: Rhythms weren't exactly matched among players, and some used natural sevenths while others' version of the same melody contained raised sevenths. The effect was a fresh, familial spirit that incorporated some individuality. My favorite to watch was the qanun player, who sometimes strummed and sometimes plucked with great dexterity.

Three-story Tatu is a restaurant during the day and a popular bar into the small hours. Maryam had brought me there the first night of Sauti za Busara, and I headed there to use up my remaining shillings before coming home.

I paid the 5,000-shilling cover charge and walked up to the top. It was early, around ten, and there weren't yet many people. To my right, across the dark dance floor, I recognized Sandra, whom I'd met the second night of the music festival. She noticed me, too.

I approached her and we leaned in to hug each other. I felt a shove on my shoulder.

A British voice. "Get your f---ing hands off my girl!"

I stepped away. He had sprung up from the corner sofa and was suddenly on a drunken rampage, staggering around the bar, cursing, yelling at her, and threatening to hit me.

I found a security guard. "This man is dangerous. He hurt my friend at Sauti za Busara. He needs to be removed before he hurts someone else."

And so, for the second time in three weeks, I had Nigel escorted out.

"He is crazy! This man is crazy!" Sandra said. "I didn't even see him! I haven't seen him since Sauti za Busara!"

We sat down and had a couple of beers, and then I was out of shillings. She offered to buy another one, but I was ready to sleep.

I had taken precautions for my walk of more than 150 miles around Zanzibar: a loud whistle, pickpocket-proof pants, traveling only during the daytime, researching hotspots for muggings. Yet the two minutes for which I was most on my guard was the trip from Tatu back to the Park Hyatt, where I'd switched for the last night. The Tanzanians weren't going to bother me. But a perpetually intoxicated Brit named Nigel was out there somewhere, running out of bars that would accept him.

"How was your walk around Zanzibar?" the doorman asked when I left the next morning. "Last time you were walking to Unguja Ukuu."

"Excellent. So pretty. Wonderful people. And now I'm walking to the airport."

"Hope to see you back here again."

I had five hours before my flight, but I wanted to make sure I picked up my Covid-19 test results before the lunch break. I got there with about 20 minutes to spare. A dozen people were in front of me at the window on the right.

The line moved quickly until it didn't. The clerk seemed to have a problem locating someone's certificate, and she went away for ten minutes. Finally she returned. There were two more people ahead of me, at two minutes to one.

They got their certificates. The one directly in front of me just stood there, checking his copy for a small eternity.

"Come on, move," I said under my breath.

Finally he did. I thrust my passport and receipt through the window.

"USA," she said. The certificates were filed by country. She flipped through them. I saw my name flash by.

"That's it!" I said.

She matched it with the receipt and wrote my name on the list of collected certificates. She rolled up the certificate and pushed it through the window. I grabbed it and moved out of the way. "OK, next!" I shouted. "It's like 'The Amazing Race.' Grab the melon! Climb the wheel!" People laughed.

"Make sure it's yours!" the next man said. I stood for a moment for that purpose.

"Is it negative?" someone else asked.

I winked and whispered, "I think they are all negative."

"Covid doesn't exist in Tanzania!" he yelled back, citing the official government line.

I chuckled and walked the last half-hour to the airport.