A private initiative is making Forodhani safer for divers – just as the Zanzibari makachus are grabbing the world’s attention.
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The young Zanzibari doing acrobatic dives from the sea promenade have become world-famous. Every night, just before dusk, the local youngsters dive into the sea with the most dramatic stunts, turning the historic Forodhani area in front of Stone Town into a stage. Recently, footage of the popular but dangerous pastime – exercised since generations – has gone viral.
But the entertainment has a high price: Over the years there have been several fatalities and serious injuries; one paralysed boy has been in hospital for years. “When I met his family I knew I had to do something”, says Abdulsamad Abdulrahim, a local businessman and Honorary Consul of Brazil. Singlehandedly the Zanzibari, who used to jump from the promenade wall himself as a kid, started an initiative to clean up the ocean, improve the quay wall and introduce other safety precautions.
Mwinyi endorsing the plan
With the consent of president Hussein Mwinyi, also a former teenage diver, 42-year-old Abdulsamad literally left no stone unturned, digging rocks, glass and even a number of discarded Swahili bedframes out of the shallow waters. Utilising heavy machinery and barges he had the dangerous debris removed.
The sea was effectively deepened; further safety measures include a first-aid station and emergency rescue training. Owner Bakhresa of the Azam company also greatly supported the initiative. Government officials including the Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority and the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture, Sports endorsed it. Abdulsamad pledged further measures: “We will install new stairs and rubber mats to protect swimmers.”
“Makachu Swimmers” are now officially registered as a water sport in Zanzibar. And to top it all, and to tap into the raw diving talent of Zanzibari youth, an Olympic size pool near the Amani stadium is under discussion.