Shh . . . It’s A Secret Place I Can’t Tell You About

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Each time I read about or discover an “undiscovered” place I promise myself that I will not be a part of its demise by writing some big, fancy article that subliminally says: “GO THERE”.  I mean, as much as I love sharing these secret destinations with you fine people, I have to draw the line somewhere. It’s simply not fair to reveal these little Edens, bursting with traditional cultures, authentic food and landscapes that just might pop your travel cherry after one quick glance. Just can’t do it. Nope, not gonna do it.

Well alright, but this is the last time. I will share a magnificent spot with you if you promise not to go telling any folks that won’t appreciate the innocence and slow pace of this place.

I should disclose that I’ve never been to Matemwe, a small fishing village on the northeastern coast of Zanzibar, and that I’ve relied on my buddy (OK, so we’ve never actually met) Craig Tansley and his recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald for details on this lovely place.

So why is Matemwe so worthy of being kept a secret? It all boils down to the fact that it’s one of the few beach towns where high-rises, technology and the tourist industry have not yet jaded a way of life that has existed for hundreds of years. It’s not a place where you’ll find luxury hotels, perfect, man-made beaches ( the lagoon can be crowded with seaweed and sea urchins), or an array of shops and facilities. But you may encounter locals praying along the beach — the sand their mat, the sun their guide — and  “a buckshot sky of beaming planets and auroras of tiny stars.”

While in Matemwe, Tansley becomes fascinated by its  daily intricacies as he  observes the  lifestyle of a time gone by:

Women draw water from ancient wells with babies at their breasts. They leave the infants with barely older siblings to pick seaweed each day at low tide from the lagoon; the dried kelp is exported to China . . .

Their incessant chatter is the only noise I hear all day as they trudge back and forth in cumbersome but colourful Islamic gowns weighed down by sea water. Their men have gone fishing; in traditional ngalwas they sail on each high tide, returning with boats full of fish. Each afternoon they sell their catch at a fish market on the beach – the liveliest place in town.

Later in his trip, Tansley explores Kiwengwa, a popular beach town six kilometers south of Matemwe, but is disheartened by the persistent child peddlers, insincerity of the local people and the money-hungry, resort-town atmosphere. He hastily returns to Matemwe.

Perhaps, the best way to sum up why Matemwe is deserving of such “high-profile” treatment is best said by an Australian expat Tansley meets along the way: “There’s something about seeing people live their lives to the tide, the sun and the moon rather than their BlackBerrys and their iPhones.”

[Photo by madpai/Flickr]

By Maria Russo


About the Author

Maria Russo is a freelance writer who loves natural wonders, good eats, ethical travel, and boutique hotels. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, USA, and A Luxury Travel Blog, among others.

When Maria is not writing for her all-time favorite site (that would be The Expeditioner), she spends her time blogging about foreign jaunts and delectable food experiences for her site: Memoirs of a Travel & Food Addict. She is also up to no good on Twitter (@traveladdictgrl, @expedmaria).

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