The seaweed farmers of Zanzibar

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Zanzibar – Cloves, seaweed and raffia. That’s what the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar has been exporting for centuries. The island with its Arab, Portuguese and Indian influences is now a popular holiday resort. Nomad had a look how young women went to cultivate seaweed and stumbled by accident on Freddy Mercury’s past on the island, the legendary lead singer of Queen.

Zanzibar – Ungunja is the other, for us less well-known name of Zanzibar, an island off the east coast of Africa. An island with a turbulent history of sultans, slaves and spice traders.

While we see the Moluccas as the Spice Islands, the nickname is also in use for Zanzibar and her island sisters Pemba and Mafia. Clove is the most important one of these spices. Zanzibar was once the largest producer, now she is still ranking number three in the world.

The seaweed farmers of Zanzibar

Nomad visited the island. Every morning she found young women busy preparing seaweed fields in the sea. While the mothers make a field out of four posts, their daughters search for shellfish.

Seaweed is cultivated between the lines to which young plants are being tightened. After several weeks, the field is overgrown and the seaweed is ready for consumption.

And what we did not know is that seaweed is not only eaten fresh or as the wrap of sushi, but you also find it in toothpaste, chewing gum, custard and even in beer foam.

Apart from plastic, medicines, ice cream, chocolate milk and evaporated milk.

Freddy Mercury

And what we did not know either when we started digging into the history of the island, is that frontman Freddy Mercury of Queen was from Zanzibar. He was born in the historic capital of Stone Town.

The history of Zanzibar is influenced by Persians, Arabs, Muslims, the Portuguese, and residents of mainland Africa.

And Mercury, a descendant of Persians, was born here as Farrokh Bulsara. His father was a cashier for the British colonial government.

Livingstone house

Whether Mercury ever has eaten seaweed is not known to us, but if you visit the island, wander through the historical center of Stone Town with its lush avenues, its towers and beautiful doors full of carvings.

You can also visit the birthplace of Mercury but if you are not a fan, there is also the House on the famous explorer Davis Livingstone.

Text: Anneke de Bundel – Images: Nicole Franken

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