Januari 10, 2022
Dakika 5. Soma

Finest Sand, Blue Sea, Great People

New spark at Zanzibar's northeast coast around Matemwe

What is Zanzibar’s best beach? Look northeast! THE FUMBA TIMES explored a coastal stretch of finest sand, quaint hotels and upcoming gourmet cuisine.

By Sara Hemed and Andrea Tapper

Checking out the North East coast we start with beauty before beach. It wasn’t planned that way, but like any touristic region of Zanzibar, the twenty-kilometre beach stretch between Kiwengwa and Matemwe – partly finest sand, partly coral cliffs - has changed with the Covid-19 pandemic, in many ways surprisingly. We discover more supermarkets, more groceries, even delicatessen and, yes, more beauty. 

The “Weaving Point”, first stop on our road trip at Kiwengwa’s “Cel’hai” shopping centre, triggers our shopping instincts with a fine collection of bags made of denim and leather, ever-so-soft woven blanket’s and pillow covers with a fresh Californian touch. ”I want to stand out by craftsmanship”, says owner Comfort Maugo, a lady entrepreneur from Dar es Salaam – and she does. More beauty lies ahead with “Matti”, well known Matilde Baldaggi’s first independent hair & beauty salon next to the well-stocked Kamro supermarket. 

Is that really sleepy Kiwengwa? “There’s lot of activity going on everywhere”, says Julia Bishop as we settle into her little paradise “Hodi Hodi” (Swahili for knock-knock), a boutique heaven with six rooms in two villas right by a seemingly endless white beach.  “You can walk the beach hear one hour to the left, one hour to the right“ the long-time chairperson of Zanzibar’s Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI) says.  The 61-year-old Kenyan born business consultant not only has her facts and figures right, but is a charming and ever-attentive host. Bishop launched the Responsible Tourism Certificates in Tanzania and drove by landrover from London to Cape Town in 2004: “The road trip was meant to get Africa out of system, instead it re-connected me”, she tells us with a smile. 

Matemwe  - the cradle of tourism

The coast from Kiwengwa up to Matemwe, with a village in the midst aptly named Pwani Mchangani (Swahili for sandy coast), has come a long way. Known as the “cradle of tourism” in Zanzibar, it was popular with expats long before the island was discovered by everyone else. Nowadays, holidaymakers find a mix of larger hotels and quaint individual properties here. For lunch we stop at Melia – the former Kempinski  - taking the stylish entrance of  “The Level”, the villa wing of the 5-star-resort, and make our way to the immensely popular Gabi Beach restaurant. One of the few, if not the only hotel restaurant in Zanzibar attracting an outside crowd each and every weekend, the trend spot is brimming with people. We enjoy de luxe burgers by award-winning chef Mayaven Alankalee who oversees all five Melia restaurants. Known to everybody as Chef Alan, he surely has taken the north east coast to the next level here. 

Others want to push it even further. Paradoxically, the white east coast near the northern tip of Zanzibar has the poorest hinterland in all of Zanzibar and at the same time the most ambitious - some say oversized - hotel plans. More than 60 per cent of the population still lacks access to running water here. One of the major new projects, Blue Amber, once planning artificial Dubai-type islands with helicopter landing pads, seems to have somewhat toned down to ocean-view villas starting at 197,125 dollars and a golf course along four kilometres of coast - a billboard is advertising the villas at the Muyuni roundabout. “Off-shore is out”, confirms Blue Amber PR lady XXXX the change of plans. Construction is also on the way for an alleged 800-room Italian hotel, currently being built just opposite the private luxury island Mnemba, once a forerunner of eco-tourism. 

Saving nature in the hills

Nobody knows the challenges and contradictions of Matemwe better than Antje Foerstle, an ex-model turned permaculturist who started the “Dada” and “Moto” women’s co-operatives. To visit Antje we have to enter deep into the bush on the ridge above Matemwe. Here she lives with her family in a bohemian jungle house packed with antiques and recyclables, surrounded by solar cookers and herb gardens. Antje, 54, meets us in worn gardening gear, calls herself “a radical” and is at once empathetic, beautiful - and angry.  “While land grabbing is going on here”, points out the woman who settled in the community of Matemwe almost 30 years ago, “locals remain so utterly poor, that many don’t even have a second pair of trousers.”

While not everybody may be sharing the naturalist’s views, her standing in the community is flawless. “We couldn’t do without her”, says Jussi Husa matter-of-factly pointing to oregano, coriander and aubergines all growing opulently in his veggie garden designed by Foerstle. A Swedish born in Lappland, Husa is one of Zanzibar’s most outstanding chefs, has cooked in the island’s finest hotels from “Essque Zalu” to “Zuri” and now opened his first own restaurant “Mzee Husa”. The fine dining with a charming minimalistic look is situated in a garden villa at “Zanziblue” resort. We try cottage ravioli, seared tuna and aubergine millefeuille - all are oustanding. A distinct crowd of locals and holidaymakers cozily talks until late in the evening at Husa’s tables.  

A few kilometres down the road, in Pwani Mchangani, another up-and-coming gourmet experience awaits us. Hand-producing French cheese and pastry, Lelia, 49, and Alain Bibollet, 54, recently opened “O’ Petit Bouchon” as a tiny roadside deli. The French couple lived for five years in Bali and was swept to Zanzibar by the pandemic - and a good touristic prognosis. 

Life music at Seles  Bungalows

After our all-day touring  we yearn for an evening establishment to wind down and have to look no further than to “Seles Bungalows”, a welcoming cosmopolitan hang-out and the Northeast’s best life music spot. Polish owner Krzysztof Milkowski, known to  everybody as Milky, presents jam sessions with “The Lockdowners”; a lovely pool, super service and delicious food draw a regular crowd. 

Back at “Hodi Hodi”, Bishop’s networking beach recluse with its palm-fringed plunge pool and a much-loved honesty bar, we meet Len Horlin, pioneer owner of “Matemwe Lodge”, now director of the iconic Emerson hotels in Stone Town. “I am always happy to be back here”, she says, “Matemwe still has that special magic.” 

Nukuu:

„Here you can walk the beach one hour to the left, one hour to the right“

Julia Bishop

INFO

Go northeast!

Mahali pa kukaa:

Hodi-Hodi

Private rooms in 2 villas right on the beach

www.hodi-hodi.com

Neptune Pwani

Popular 194-room beach resort

Bluebay and Sultan Sands

Pioneer beach resorts

Kasha Boutique Hotel

Makuti-roofed old-school luxury

kasha-zanzibar.com

Zanzibar House

Small Italian hotel with billiard and restaurant

zanzibarhouse.it

Eat & drink:

Mzee Husa@Zanziblue

New restaurant of top chef

Gabi Beach@Melia

Perfect for Sunday lunch

Seles Bungalows

Local live music Mo, Wed, Sat, Sun near Matemwe

Insta: @seles_bungalows

Where to shop:

Weaving Point 

Fine craft boutique at Cel’hai shopping centre, Kiwengwa

O’Petit Bouchon

French roadside deli near Pwani Mchangani

https://www.facebook.com/opetitbouchonbymoyo/

La Bottega Shop and Deli 

At www.lapiliresidence.com in Cairoo

Shiriki hii

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