Full moon in Zanzibar

February 9, 2006

Here is a little slice of Zanzibar from our time at the beach in Kendwa in the northern tip…

The full moon party at the Kendwa Rocks is gyrating at full speed. It is filled with local men looking for tourists to dance with, and tourists being wowed by the acrobatic show illuminated by the roaring beach fire. The party goes on late in to the night, but I turn in around midnight. This means I am one of the few folks on the beach to see why a full moon was a reason to party long before the tourists started coming.

The waters off the coast at the northern tip of the island are always shallow, but when there is a full moon the tides are so low you can walk at least a kilometer off shore and keep your head above water, which turns out to be perfect for hand held net fishing.

As I gaze northward there are at least a hundred and fifty women spread out thousands of feet from the shore across the blue zebra skin of seaweed darkened water and sand that shines from beneath. As the water becomes a solid blue far from shore, there are still scarf-covered heads dotting the water.

Close to shore there are 17 women wearing long dresses of impossibly bright and busy prints. The patterns are red and orange or yellow and blue. There is a multicolored tie dye of red, orange, green and white. A yellow and black checkerboard of cloth is hanging loosely on top of an explosive brown and orange patterned sheath underneath. Some wear matching head scarves, some favor solid black. All seem as though this is the most normal thing in the world to wear as they stand waist or chest deep in the ocean.

The women form a 60 foot semi circle and walk perpendicular to the beach, 30 feet off shore. They walk north along the coast, and even the farthest woman’s head is far above the gentle waves. They are quiet as they move steadily along the shore. Then they start smacking the water with sticks, splashing and talking occasionally. Then roaring with laughter as their boisterous shouting carries across the water and down the shore.

Four women hold a pair of nets in the center. As the group nears me the semi circle begins to close into a circle as the women act like a tightening noose, driving the fish toward the nets. Slowly the nets are drawn close and the women stand around talking and shouting as the net bearers attend to the nets, hopefully filled with fish.

Then at the same steady pace the women return to the south with their catch. There is lots more to do and the low tide won’t last for long.

A few Zanzibar (Kendwa) Photos

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