Our clothes firmly stuck to our bodies, we open the door to our room and an air conditioned oasis greets and beckons us inward. We happily comply and drop our bags, our cranky mood lightens as each fibre of our clothing retreats. The room is beautiful, with high ceilings, stained glass and intricately carved doors. The tub is odd, small, round and tiled. There is a shower and finally I’m treated to a “Hollywood” shower and take full advantage. We climb into our four poster bed and quickly fall deep asleep.
We awake early, excited to explore Stone town and our hotel. We eat a hot breakfast, complete with most excellent coffee and prepare to meet the rest of the group for our formal City tour and a chance to learn.
The Guide explains some of the features of the doors that we admire. I decide today I will photograph doors and envision creating a montage of sorts once I get home. I happily snap away while the Guide narrates. He tells us that carved chains around the doors informs people that a Slave Trader lived at that address.
If there was raised brass on the doors, it was designed to keep elephants away. I wonder if that would work thinking of the elephants we just saw in Tarangire ripping apart the baobab trees with little effort. Its unlikely that it would work, but is pretty and decorative.
The town has effectively preserved its past. There is an Arabian influence and the predominant religion is Muslim, though other faiths are also represented. Everyone seems to live in relative harmony. The electrical wires above our heads are ancient and not to code. It is amazing that there is any electricity and that the place has not burned to the ground.
There are many clocks in this town, but none tell the current time. Still, they are correct twice per day. There are vendors each sitting outside their tiny shops, beckoning to the people that pass, each claiming that they have the best price. We have no time to shop, but promise we will be back later. They shrug, their livelihood is not dependent on whether we purchase, there is less desperation here.
We walk to where the Slave Trading occurred, sadly not so long ago. We are taken to a holding area where the Slaves were kept prior to going to market. It is a sad place with a small window to the outside and chains to leash people inside, it is oppressive. The Guide shows us the whipping post outside where the Slaves were whipped to separate the strong from the weak. The stronger would fetch a better price. The Guide tells us that the Slaves would adopt a saying, “Lay down your hearts, for now you are slaves.” They would accept their lot, as to fight and struggle would be futile.
It is always moments like this that I’m ashamed to be Caucasion. The Guide helps to lift some guilt when he tells us that in many cases the people were stolen from their villages, or lied to about work, by their own people who would profit by providing people to Slave Traders. Many Slave traders were from the same country too, though of course many Slaves were eventually sold to Caucasians in other parts of the world. It seems as though there was plenty of blame to go around.