For this post I chose the meaning being a mate or match for something or someone.
In the animal kingdom:
Among humans no matter the age differences:
Looking for a companion, a stray cat on the beach:
I was bustling around in the kitchen early one evening, preparing a meal for me and my husband when I heard him the first time. A soft tentative miaau, which I couldn’t place. It didn’t sound like our Siamese cat, whose miaau is loud and authoratitive as only a Siamese’s miaau can be.
I ignored it and didn’t hear it again untill the next evening when the sound seemed to come from above. Intrigued I went outside and looked around and there he was, a scruffy grey and white cat sitting on the roof, looking at me with those eyes.
I was immediately hooked!
I invited him in, fed him and he left.
Oh well I thought, at least he is not hungry any more.
The very next day he came back again, just like the cat in the song.
This ritual continued for a week. Every night he came for a meal and left again untill the next night. I phoned around in the neighbourhood, enquiring whether any of the neighbours were missing a cat. Many have seen him, but no one claimed him. Most were cross with him for foraging in their kitchens.
Slowly, night after night, he allowed us to touch him more and more. Then one night he didn’t leave and so he became one of our family.
Now he is firmly entrenched in our house and in our hearts. He follows me around like a dog, even going for a walk with me in the garden. He sits on my husbands lap when he works on the computer and lavishes us with lots of rubbing and purring. He was named Paka, meaning “cat” in Swahili as he arrived in our lives just after we returned from our trip to Tanzania.
Meet Paka, the cat who came back the very next day!
‘ The air was filled with the amazing spicy-sweet scent of cloves, and I stood by the rail at the old Arab town and thinking what a lucky young fellow I was to be seeing all these marvellous places’
-Roald Dahl in his memoirs ‘Going Solo’
This quote by Roald Dahl sums up my feelings during our recent visit to Zanzibar of which one of the highlights was a visit to a spice farm.
Zanzibar is infused with the essence of spices.The scent of cinamon coffee, the delicious spicy smell of Swahili cooking which combines Arabian, African, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Persian flavours, the rich glamorous smell of essential oils, all mingle and contribute to a sensual experience found only here.
A visit to a spice farm in the Kidichi area is an experience involving all the senses. As the spice farmer leads the way, he cuts, crushes, peels, opens pods and invites the visitor to taste, feel, smell, see and take a guess at the treasure he reveals.
From the vibrant lipstick tree with bright red flowers to treasures hidden underneath the soil such as turmeric and ginger and the mysteriously big cocoa pods hanging like huge rugby balls from the branches to the exotic ylang ylang flower can be seen here.
We follow the farmer along a path wandering underneath big trees winding in and out between shrubs and bushes, all the while aware of the lingering smells of spices.
A young man follows us cutting and weaving green banana leaves into small works of art which he presents to us, transforming the men into look alikes of King Julien in the movie Madagascar with towering woven hats and the ladies into jewel wearing society madams.
The visit is concluded with a traditional Swahili meal consisting of spicy pilau ( rice cooked with spices ) two spicy traditional sauces and greens almost like spinach accompanied by spicy chai ( tea ). The meal is eaten sitting on a woven mat on the floor.
Spice trading is an age old tradition in Zanzibar and formed the backbone of these islands’ economy from as early as 975 AD, when a Persian sultanate was established here. Cloves were, and still is the main spice being cultivated and traded with, but as other seafaring explorers and merchants reached this coast more and more varieties of spices were introduced.
Today Zanzibarians still use spices not only for their culinary attributes, but also as traditional medicine and in decorations. Essential oils are used in wellness treatments.
A visit to these islands is not complete untill having experienced the pleasures of an introduction to the rich heritage of the spice trade .
After all these islands are known as the spice islands!
We were sitting around relaxing with our feet in the fine white sand at the Restaurant Bar of Kilima Kidogo Guest House in Paje, when Mohammed the chef came to ask us whether we would like his catch of the day prepared whole in the oven, garnished with veggies for supper. He assured us it would be just enough for our family of six, which included our children from Dar es Salaam who were due to arrive to spend the weekend with us.
Earlier that afternoon we were treated to a huge home baked chocolate cake which we enjoyed with coffee and tea.
Such is the hospitality at Kilima Kidogo Guest house in Pajè Zanzibar where we spent four days lazing in the sun, taking long relaxing walks on the beach and enjoying the hearty hospitality of Dina and her staff.
The house opens directly onto the fine white Zanzibar sand with breathtaking views past the swimming pool of the blue ocean shimmering in the sun. The restaurant and bar nestles underneath a palmfrond roof, the tables and chairs firmly imbedded in white sand.
The beach seems to stretch endlessly, an improbable white, broken here and there by driftwood, a fisherman passing by on a bicycle or a dhow deep in the sea.
At low tide the water recedes far away to form numerous shallow pools where the treasures of the ocean are revealed to those brave enough to walk as far as the coral ridge.
The name Kilima Kidogo might mean Little Hill but the welcome of the people at Kilima is anything but a little hill, it rather resembles a huge mountain of friendliness and hospitality.
Thank you Dina and staff for creating a home from home for many people.
We will surely be back!
The Indian Ocean is their ball room floor, the wind and the waves the music to which they have been dancing since as early as 600 BC. They are the numerous dugout canoes and dhows seen plying the waters of the ocean near Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.
Watching the dhows from the shore sailing slowly and elegantly past with lateen sails billowing in the wind, I could almost hear the sound of a slow beautiful waltz as they seemed to dance with the wind and the sea in perfect harmony.
On another day when the wind and the waves were stronger I imagined a fast tango with the wind hugging the sail tightly and the Dhow bending and dipping in harmony with the rhythm of the sea and the wind.
The smaller dhows rigged with outboard engines and used to ferry passengers and tourists to and from the surrounding islands and sandbanks, reminded me of teenagers dancing a fast jig, excited about life and all it still holds in store for them.
Then there were the small dugout canoes which we saw lying forlornly and alone on the shore below the jetty at Slipway in Dar es Salaam. They were waiting with their nets drying in the sun like wall flowers sitting at the side of the ballroom floor. Waiting for a new day to dawn, heralding a fishing trip at sea where they could dance their unique slow dance in tune with waves, the wind and the fisherman.
Dug out canoes are usually made out of one tree such as a mango tree and are mostly used to fish in shallow sheltered waters by a single fisherman.
Dhow is the name for a number of sailing vessels using one or more lateen sails. Dhows usually have long thin hulls and are mainly used as trading vessels, carrying heavier merchandise such as fruit and fresh water along the East African coast. The local trading dhows use an outboard engine mainly for maneuvring, while the main means of propulsion still is the sail. Fishing boats also use their engine when actually engaged in fishing with nets.
These canoes as well as traditional dhows are still manufactured in the Nungwi region of Zanzibar and north of Stone Town at the edge of a mangrove rimmed inlet.
I salute these age old seagoing vessels and their crew. May this tradition live long as it adds a certain romance and magic to a visit to these regions.