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Home : Travel Stories   : Zanzibar, Tanzania
"Even preparing to go to Dole is an exhausting process - it takes all day and involves plaiting hair, painting henna and climbing gingerly into stiff nylon party dresses that crackle with static electricity."
- Gemma Pitcher

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Tanzania

Zanzibar - the moon and the music
by Gemma Pitcher, 26, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Feb 28, 2000

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Zanzibar

For the most of the year Dole is nothing more than a rather greasy looking patch of ground next to the road which runs to the spice plantation at Kizambani. Tonight, however, it is lit up with an eerie whitish glow from the dozens of hurricane lamps hanging off the stalls selling tiny packets of cassava chips, plastic hair decorations and big thermos buckets full of dark purple tamarind juice. Kids run in circles playing obscure games, or dance outside to the muted beat of the disco with their siblings.

As twilight becomes night, a procession of tiny inert bodies - draped over the handlebars of their mothers' bicycles, or sitting asleep bolt upright at the front of their fathers' motorbikes - begin to leave the party. Even preparing to go to Dole is an exhausting process - it takes all day and involves plaiting hair, painting henna and climbing gingerly into stiff nylon party dresses that crackle with static electricity. Little boys don't escape, stepping cautiously around in a variety of outfits and styles, from shiny three piece suits la Bugsy Malone to full English football strips, complete with socks.

Some boys go the whole hog, dressing up as little girls in a sort of African 'trick or treat'. Adorned in kangas, with rags stuffed under their skirts for maximum wiggle and scarlet cochineal on smeared on pouting lips, they proceed from house to house to drum and dance in return for cake and sweet lemongrass tea.

Now, however, the children glow in the dark like fireflies as they plod up the road behind their parents, drooping with fatigue. Most have had their finery captured for posterity in the tents set up around the periphery of the party by professional photographers, who bustle around arranging family groups like football teams.

Tonight is the last night of the celebrations, and as the children leave the party turns from school fete to rave. Teenagers and twentysomethings are now bounding wildly around to tunes that become increasingly bombastic. Pushing aside the curtain onto the dance floor proper, the noise hits me like a wave as a perspiring DJ plays gangsta rap at top volume and a mass of sweating, pop- eyed lads bound around in Kangol hats and Nike t-shirts.

I spot Hisdori and the gang at the far side of the field, trying to outdo each other in extravagant imitations of Tupac and Puff Daddy. There's Ali, normally tall, skinny and lugubrious, but tonight waving his spindly arms above his head and grinning insanely. He's accompanied by Small Brother Of Ali, just as skinny but at 14 not quite as lugubrious or as tall. Iddi, forever Mr Cool, all chin beard and mirror shades, has is own shadow in Small Brother Of Iddi, exuding adolescent attitude also but not quite old enough for the beard.

Would I turn down a drag queen?

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