Tour of the village and Jambiani women’s crafts

Definitely an unusual tour compared to those offered by classic tour operators and always highly appreciated by our visitors. It offers our guests the rare chance to get to know this more hidden side of Zanzibar rarely seen by the passing through “wazungu”(white travellers). In Zanzibar, as in many developing countries, the women’s role in domestic and community economy is paramount. They look after children(both their own and often those of neighbors or relatives), keep house, gather and prepare food, plus they often do lowly paid, strenuous, menial jobs in order to bring extra income into the house. The most typical of these jobs is the harvesting of seaweed. This is a common job in the South East of the island due to the tide changes, an activity which began years ago as an initiative to guarantee a small income for local women. It sees the exportation of tonnes of seaweed particularly to the Far East where it is mainly used in the cosmetic’s industry. At low tide (whether at dawn or midday) the women stay up to their knees (always suitably dressed) in water tying tiny strands of seaweed to cords in order to make proper little seaweed plantations in the sea. The seaweed grows and the larger bunches are picked and brought to the beach in bags carried on backs. Here they’re left to dry, then collected and delivered for exportation. Unfortunately the earnings are very low and inadequate considering the demanding and exhausting work. After this seaweed cultivation our guests get to see another typical job, that ofextracting fiber from the coconut husk, o.k.a. “coir” where we see the women working once again with the sea as main protagonist. Again they work at low tide immersing the coconut husks in holes dug out of the sand, covered with rock coral and left to soak and soften in salt water for about three months. After this wait they are taken out ready for grinding. They extract threads of fiber then spun by hand in order to form long strings from which the women can make strong cords, material for making chests, rugs and ornaments for their homes. Finally we move onto the work concerning food preparation; vegetables, cereals and coconut. The women still use old rock coral grinders, large wooden mortars and other tools passed down through generations. They grate coconut pulp daily, extracting the milk and juices, they grind rice to make flour or they sift millet, all this done with deft manual precision passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. All these activities are done outside on the verandas or in the roads so they can watch over their children and chat and exchange local gossip.

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