Last month I travelled to Tanzania for work and I took the opportunity to tack on extra days to explore the country. I hit Zanzibar, Dar Es Salaam, and ended my trip with a Safari through the Serentegi and Ngorongoro Crater. It was my first trip to subsaharan Africa and definitely exceeded my expectations. My trip started in Zanzibar, an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. I stayed in Stone Town, the historic center of the main island for my visit.
Zanzibar’s population is 99% Muslim, and arriving there from Tunis, I found myself well-prepared for the modest dress and the pre-Ramadan hustle and bustle. I’d read a little bit about Zanzibar before arriving (ok, I read what Wikipedia had to offer) and discovered that it’s also known as the “Spice Island.” Spices! I love spices! The foodie in me immediately booked a Spice Tour through our hotel, the Mashariki Palace. Now, I’m not normally one for tours, but there is no other easy way to see the spice plantations and after my awesome tour experience in Istanbul, I’ve opened up my mind to the whole idea of day tours.
Picked up at the hotel and we’re off!
Our tour guide picked us up at 10:30am at the hotel. With full bellies from the delightful hotel breakfast, we were ready for our day. It was a 30 minute drive from the House of Wonders in Stone Town to the spice plantation. We got out of the car and the tour guide prepared us for some walking. For anyone considering this tour, some walking is required and I recommend closed toe shoes.
Cinnamon! My favorite spice!
We started the tour with cinnamon! My favorite spice! The cinnamon bark was rough and fragrant. In the US, cinnamon is used commonly in baking and desserts, but many cuisines use the spice in savory dishes as well. I love it in all forms, including cinnamon tea. Cozy.
After the cinnamon we were off to see fresh turmeric root. It’s bright orange! I was so awestruck that I didn’t remember to take a picture. Grrr. Did you know that turmeric gets it’s yellow color in the powered form because it is diluted with flour?
One of the most fascinating plants on the tour was iodine. See those silk fibers in the stem of the leaf in the picture below? The fibers help to form a thin film over the skin protecting the site from bacteria.
We saw, touched, tasted, and sniffed fresh plants all afternoon, including ginger, vanilla, lemongrass, cloves, curry leaves, jack fruit, more lemon grass, and black pepper cloves. We even saw a field of dill, which is regarded as a weed and not cultivated as an herb in Zanzibar! I guess dill pickles aren’t really a thing here.
Yes, that’s what fresh nutmeg looks like.
Fresh nutmeg had me in complete awe. I know that cloves were considered the “gold” in Zanzibar, but the fresh nutmeg seed blew my mind. It was golden and vibrant. Apparently the red parts of the nutmeg seed you see here were used for treating the Bubonic Plague. Others wore the nutmeg around their neck as a talisman to repel the plague. I even Googled this phenomena when I got home and there is truth to it! The guide wasn’t pulling our chain.
Finally, there’s amaro, the lipstick spice known for its gorgeous saturation of color.
Take the spice tour! Just do it.
Our afternoon was filled with exotic delights, colorful sights, and pungent scents. Until we saw the baby lions on safari, this was my favorite part of the trip. If you are planning a trip to Zanzibar, the spice tour is a must for foodies and gardeners alike. I’ve never seen so many fresh spices. For all of the cooking I do, I hadn’t thought that much about the spice plants. The tour was eye-opening, fragrant, and left a lasting impression on me. I’ve seen many interesting sights on my travels, but I cannot stop raving about this spice tour.
Then again, you had me at cinnamon.