Zanzibar on film

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Stone Town is the capital of Zanzibar, the birthplace of Freddie Mercury, and one of the most interesting places I have ever visited.

It is an incredible clash of African culture and Arab influence, and everything is treading a fine line between shabby chic and literally crumbling down. Brightly coloured, sturdy doors sit nestled into peeling, once white walls. Local men sell vibrant packets of spices on every corner. Mopeds and thunderous taxies weave perilously through the fine network of streets, beeping incessantly.

Nungwi, a coastal village in northern Zanzibar, is a strange juxtaposition of affluent beachside hotels and the somewhat impoverished surrounding village. Arriving in the bright sunshine, it was easy to imagine that the local people here lived an enviably easy life, relaxing in this green paradise, feasting on tropical fruits. After one day of torrential downpour, a river of muddy water flowed down every street in the village, and their shacks suddenly seemed wholly inadequate. But the local people, entirely unperturbed, continued to cycle through the streets, to gather outside bars showing the big football match. Barefoot children ran splashing and giggling from building to building.

If you ever get the chance to visit Zanzibar, visit Nungwi, then wait for low tide, and walk out along the coast on the east side. The huge luxury hotels will give way to smaller, boutique hotels, and soon you will find only rugged forest on your right, and huge expanses of rippling white sandbanks to your left. Sometimes the sheer beauty of the natural world will leave you feeling truly humbled, and truly grateful. This will be one of those times.

Words and images by Hannah Whitfield

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