Tuesday March 5 – Stone Town, Isla Mocambique

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We awake to a very nice breakfast followed by a guided walking tour of Ilha da Mocambique, a UNESCO world heritage site. Most of our tour is in Stone Town. We see an amazingly well-preserved Governors’ House Museum from the days of Portuguese rule – no pictures – a Maritime museum with Ming china dishes from one of the many shipwrecks off this coast, and a very large fortress that looked like something out of the Alamo, or better still, the old movie Papillion, and we can imagine Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in the area. We then wander the streets with our guide Abdul, who is multilingual and very helpful. He paves the way for us to manage the local sales force who realize their are tourists on the island. By this time it is noon and very warm. Most of the locals are inside their homes and courtyards. Occasionally we can look inside the homes without being too rude. Most places look pretty dismal but the kids in the streets – on their way to the second shift of the school day – are very spiffy in their spotless uniforms and big smiles.
The Ilha Mocambiqe was the capital of Mocambique for 400 years until 1898 when Maputo took on the role. Today there is the beginning of a turn of fortune for this island paradise. Several houses in the Stone Town end of the small island have been bought and restored, including our hotel which used to be 3 merchant houses.
A delicious lunch of grilled prawns, grouper, octopus and salads was laid out for us at Villa Sands which is a small hotel owned and run by a Swedish architect named Marco and his African wife Gisella. They have 2 babies, the youngest only 6 weeks old. He designed and built this charming 11 room hotel (sold out to a conference group at this time) and she was very adept at helping to run it. Someone – maybe her mother – helped with the two kids. After a long lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean with local beer, good conversation and a few laughs, we went back to the hotel for showers (temperature is in the 30s and very humid) and siestas. Sunset wine on our companion’s terrace watching the sea and local fishing dhows, and the sky that produces long bluish lines reaching the horizon at the same location. Very unusual formations and we don’t know what they are. We eat a communal meal of fish, goat curry, rice bread and soggy fries with a tasty creme caramel for dessert. One of our African cooks who also serves the meal wears a white paste on her face as part of her evening outfit. We attempt to learn what it means but are unsuccessful in the translation. The heat of the day – we are not far from the equator – makes us lazy. We are in our rooms at 8pm to relax for an early start tomorrow for Tanzania and Dar es Salaam. Gord talking with Abdul, the Governors House Museum, the front door of the high school, fishing boats, fisherman repairing his boat on the beach.

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