At a certain point in the conversation, Othamn Masoud opens a lesson for gentiles in Swahili: “English we say Kiingereza, French is Kifaransa.
Portugal?? Portugal is Ureno and Portuguese is Kireno! I can't explain why” the teenager confesses to us as we try to understand the phonetic discrepancy of the term.
The mystery intrigues us.
However, past vast parched rice paddies that awaited the monsoons, we arrived in the lush green forest of Jozani. Hassan welcome us.
He presents himself dressed according to his religion and office.
The Eccentric Fauna of the Jozani Forest
He's wearing a kofia – a South-East African-style Islamist cap – and rubber boots.
On the narrow trails, he reveals a rare jumping shrew before we head to the haven of the less timid species and, therefore, most threatened with extinction in that tiny ecosystem: the colobus monkey.
In three times, dozens of fluffy and striped specimens, white and black, descend from the treetops to the proximity of the vast mangrove and grant us a curious investigative interaction.
As the day was still halfway through, we took the opportunity to go through one of the several farms of spices that coexist on Anguja, the largest island of Zanzibar.
He led us, on this occasion, Abdallah Rasih, an experienced native guide with a loud voice and bearing to match.
From what we can see, a very unique style of presenting these farms and plants to visitors has developed over time.
An Incursion into Zanzibar's Abundant Spices
Its main ingredient was the total lack of facial expression and suspense. “Have you seen these leaves, asks Ysuf, a host on the farm? This texture, do you know?
And this smell? Maybe, because of the smell, they're already there? What if I crush the leaves like that?
So do you already know what it is? Very well, it's citronella!" confirms us.
After having gone through more or less exhausting rituals for cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and so on.
The Small Portuguese Fort and the Reason for Being of the Term Ureno
The explanation for its presence so far from its geographical origin was associated with the mystery of “Urenus”. We didn't take long to unravel it.
“Well, since we've seen one of your heritages and we're so close, let's take a look at the place where it is believed that Portuguese navigators first anchored”.
We went by car to Fukuchani. There, Abdallah shows us the ruins of a building that was believed for a long time to have served as a fortification for the first discoverers to disembark in those parts.
A pthe influence of Vasco da Gama in the archipelago it dictated its incorporation in the province of Arabia and Ethiopia of the kingdom of Portugal, which then expanded at a strong pace into an empire.
According to what we found on the Internet and it seemed to make perfect sense to us, Ureno, the so-called Gentile Swahili came from the Portuguese having been connoted as the people of the Kingdom.
They were also responsible for the spread of spices across East Africa.
Aboard the Dala Dal (bus) 117, Towards the City of Stone
On a new day, sunny like everyone else, we leave the cozy Mapenzi, head towards the road that runs along the east coast of the island and wait for the first dala dala (locally-styled bus) to pass towards the city of Zanzibar, the island's capital.
We didn't wait five minutes when the 117 appeared, coming from Kiwenga and the pine cone. The driver intuits additional profit. It makes us follow at your side instead of in the overcrowded cabin. Charge us double.
On the one hand, it deprives us of any interaction with other passengers, but on the other, we enjoy the journey better.
O dala dala stops at all times and everywhere instructed by natives who come out of nowhere or by passengers in frequent verbal disputes.
It passes by scooters, bicycles, ox carts and pedestrians, which gathers at the entrance to the villages, lost among dense colonies of coconut trees and banana groves.
Schools abound, easy to identify at that time of the morning by the countless groups of young people in uniforms, even more so when we saw long processions of girls all covered in jilbabs or combinations of hijabs with tunics.
The road sides are tight, but the population seems to have gotten used to living their lives in sync and even depending on the traffic.
O dala dala number 117 passes through a house that we found to have been the domicile of the Scottish explorer David Livingstone.
Beside, several masai work in construction.
Drifting through the streets and alleys of Cidade de Pedra, Capital of Zanzibar
Then, it penetrates the edge of the city of Zanzibar and the station of dalla dalas from the Darajani market.
This part of the city is overflowing with people. We are flooded with the senses of movements, colors, smells and sounds of the myriad of products and transactions that take place there.
We explore it with the fascination that any genuine market in a secular African city awakens in us.
Lost in that overcrowded labyrinth, we turn to a map and make ourselves what we think is a viable entrance to Cidade de Pedra, the old town with predominant XNUMXth century architecture that the UNESCO classified, in 2000, of World Heritage.
Above all, due to the incredible mix of influences from Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements, fifty mosques, six Hindu temples and two Catholic churches underlying the aggregating Swahili culture.
We walk with the unique orientation of the sea through the streets that are sometimes dark and sometimes sunny, rarely deserted. Most of the buildings that delimit them are degraded or in ruins.
They preserve a decadent charm.
This is the case of the Arab Fort, which was erected as a defense by the occupants of Oman, in 1780, where there was a Portuguese chapel.
In February, it hosts the Sauti za Busara, Zanzibar Music Festival, one of the largest ethnic music events in the world.
The Zanzibarite Origin of Farouk Bulsara, Best Known by Freddy Mercury
Cidade da Pedra has another fascinating relationship with music.
It was on Kenyatta Street that we also traveled through that, in 1946, Farrokh Bulsara was born, the son of Parsi and Zoroastrian Indian parents.
Farouk lived in Zanzibar until he was nine years old until the family moved to Zanzibar. India. In 1970, he arrived in London. In the English capital, under the pseudonym of Freddie Mercury, he led a band that few readers will be unaware of, called Queen.
We go back in time and to the seafront of Cidade de Pedra.
Right next to the Arab Fort, the Beit-el-Ajaib or the House of Wonders stands out for its supreme dimension. A sultan had it built in 1883.
It won the title for being the first building on the island to have electric lighting and the first in East Africa to be equipped with an elevator powered by electricity.
These days, access to the interior is prohibited. The large stationary clock tower gives false hours.
Nearby, the former home of the Zanzibarite Tippu Tip is considered one of the most majestic ruins in Africa.
tippu tip, got its name from the sound that the many weapons at its disposal made in the slave raids it led into the interior of Africa in order to capture slaves for its clove plantations and for those of other owners.
So, the boats he was using started from the seafront where we sat and enjoyed the dhow (Arab triangular sailing boats) and others in their tourist or fishing hustle.
To the dhow in particular, we would again and again see them pass from the talcum sands off the northern tip of Anguja, the main island of Zanzibar.
During the day, fast boats plowed through the turquoise waters of the warm ocean in which we bathed.
With the sun setting, they transformed into geometric silhouettes that we followed until nightfall.