February 12, 2017
"How do you avoid the tourists in Stone Town?" said the tourist in Zanzibar.
In the blistering heat of the sub-Saharan sun lies a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with tall once whitewashed, now crumbling buildings.
A walk through Stone Town’s higgledy piggledy streets, most of which are too narrow for cars, is like stepping back in time, providing you can ignore the high-tech gadget carrying tourists.
The town, on the west coast of Zanzibar, gets its name from the coral stone buildings that were built largely during the 19th century. Indian decoration has been added to the town in the form of ornate wooden doors, which punctuate the Arabic houses. Because of the narrow streets and the high buildings, blinding sun and dark shadows, it is virtually impossible to see any landmarks and inevitably you will soon become lost.
But it is when you are lost that you have an opportunity to get a glimpse of Zanzibari life. Saying that, I, as a tourist, feel I could not get to the heart of Stone Town as although it is a beautiful place and somewhere I would recommend to visitors to East Africa, it is one of those places that has been weathered not only by time but also by tourism.
Sometimes, when you visit somewhere, you wish that you had had the chance to visit years before. I had this feeling in Stone Town. Before my holiday like all good tourists I had read in my guide book that Stone Town was a magical and mystical place, but I think that must have been long before I arrived.
Still here are my photographs – in black and white, to give them a nostalgic look. Ironically, however, for all of the photos, rather than waiting for something to happen when I took the picture, I was waiting for tourists to move out of the frame. Maybe I should have been more honest with my photographs – Martin Parr Style…
Tourism has undoubtedly left its mark on this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And I guess sometimes, being a tourist (with or without a camera) is more of a curse than a blessing.