I just bumped into Frank yesterday, and he has been helpful running errands all morning. Without any charge, as he points out. We are sitting in the back seat of his brother´s taxi, I am excited to pick Nuria up at the airport.
Frank: You are beautiful.
Andrea (no wedding ring): Thank you! My husband thinks so too.
Frank: Are you married?!!
Andrea: Yes, I told you yesterday.
Frank shouts something at his brother in Swahili which I don´t understand. He stops the car at the next street corner.
Frank: I just remembered I still have to wash a few more cars.
Nuria: Where should we celebrate your birthday?
Andrea: Let´s go to Zanzibar!
Karibu Zanzibar! We are walking around Stone Town at noon. Still a few hours to go until the Western restaurants will open for dinner. Thirsty and dizzy from the heat, I sit down in the shade of a baobab tree and the memories of lunch under the baobab in Botswana return. I get a mango out of my backpack.
Andrea: Do you also want one?
Nuria: Are you going to eat that right now?!!
Andrea: Of course, I am hungry.
Brain freeze. Ramadan. I forgot.
Nuria and I keep walking around the beautiful historic center of Zanzibar. Where could we take a sip of water? Maybe here! We hide behind an old building. Just when we are about to get out our water bottles, we hear the prayers…
Ooops! This is a mosque!!!
We walk on and eventually empty our water bottles in a dark corner that strongly smells like pee.
Onto the next ferry ride, karibu Pemba. It´s the 18th day of Ramadan. People around us look tired, women and children are napping on the floor. I manage to upload a photo to my Instagram before the connection breaks up. A big cockroach is trying to find its way into my grocery bag.
Is Nuria done reading her paper on mapping clinical disease-phenotypes yet?
I turn around and find my friend kneeling on the floor. Here she is, hiding between the seat rows and trying to eat a piece of bread without attracting too much attention.
We arrive in Pemba´s main town, Chake Chake. Bad news! There is no place that serves coffee or beer during Ramadan. But this looks like the entrance of a pharmacy, pfew!
Andrea: How much are the antibiotics?
Pharmacist: That depends on the quantity you buy. You pay per pill.
Nuria and I are cruising around Pemba in Ali´s car, together with the only other two white people on the island. They are medical students that carry out a research about antibiotics resilience. It´s humid and we have scrolled down the windows. All at once mud splashes up from the marshy dirt road and inside the car. We have gotten stuck in the mud, oh boy! The passengers of the next dala dala come to our rescue. Here we go again!
Now we are literally flying over the mud, Ali seems to be in a rush.
Ali: This is the dangerous traffic hour now. Everyone is going full speed!
We fasten our seat belts. Ramadan, day 19. Only 30 minutes left until sunset.
In Ramadan all restaurants in Chake Chake remain closed in the evening, but we already know where to get ourselves some street food. On the way there we pass by the video library. Like yesterday evening the men have gathered in the middle of the road and are watching an old movie that runs on the television screen outside the store. No women to be seen.
We spot Ali´s car parking nearby. He´s done with dinner and drunk.
Fantastic first scuba dive in the Indian Ocean around Misala Island. While we are enjoying lunch, our friendly dive masters are fasting. The boat takes us back to Pemba an hour before sunset. Oh oh, Nuria is pissed! The owner of the main travel agency has ripped her off. She needs a break and gets out her water bottle to take a strong sip. I don´t even get it. Ooops, brain freeze x2.
While a group of men observe how the two of them continue with their discussion, I climb on the dala dala that will take us back to town. Raaaatsch! I have just ripped my last pair of long pants. Not good! All men rush away immediately.
Time to leave paradise 🙁 We get up early to make our way back to catch the 8am Kilimanjaro ferry back to Zanzibar. No caffeine in our veins and tourist fare – today we feel entitled to talk our way into 1st class.
Oh! 6 hours of prayers to come & nowhere to hide. Let´s have breakfast right here 🙂
Friendly woman: Be careful eating! It´s Ramadan, you know…
Some staff walk around 1st class selling chocolate. Ramadan…?
Day 21 of Ramadan & our last hour of daylight in Zanzibar. Nuria is negotiating over the price of some Tanzanian spices.
Street vendor: Final offer! It´s Ramadan, I have to go now!!!
One more time, the prayers get us out of bed by 5am. By 7am Nuria has returned from her morning run and I am done writing my postcards. Yay, time for breakfast and – coffee!!! The waitress wants to teach us how to order coffee in Swahili. Sure! We are eager to add this word to our vocabulary and make a point in repeating it several times.
Five minutes later the same waitress comes back with a pot of tea.
Nuria and I return to Dar es Salaam one week before the official end of Ramadan. We want to celebrate the last night of a fantastic trip full of crazy adventures with a cool bottle of our favorite Tanzanian beer.
One Kilomanjaro, please!
The waiter returns with a 2l bottle of water. Kilimanjaro, the water.