In the background on Zanzibar’s farms

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One of the must-do tours if you visit Zanzibar is a trip around the island’s spice and fruit farms. Hari our guide was intent that we should taste everything we saw growing, so here he is bargaining with a farmer for a ready-to-eat bunch of bananas. You can see the banana grove in the top left corner. Banana branches are usually harvested when the fruit is still green. There’s a knack of knowing just when to cut them.

Being a nosy writer who is always in need of background detail, and also a one-time student of cultural anthropology, I try to capture slice-of-life moments whenever I can. They’re usually not the best quality photos, but I hope to make up for technical shortcomings with content interest. (And yes it would be nice to have both). So here is my take on this week’s Thursday’s Special challenge from Paula – ‘in the background’. My choice of subject, however, did mean I had to switch my blog snow off. There’s enough climate change going on without having icy precipitation on Zanzibar.


This farming family has a jackfruit orchard, as well as coconut palms. The jackfruit apparently weren’t ready for tasting, but I was anyway more distracted by the presence of the domesticated Muscovy duck. Now how did that arrive in the tropics? The mabati iron sheets on the farm house roof  (i.e. instead of traditional palm thatch) are a sign of  prosperity, and therefore of status.



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I’m wondering where this little girl is off to in such a hurry. Also one of the reasons why I’m showing off the tall trees in the background is that if you intend to make a living from them, then someone has to climb up them to pick the fruit…

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Thursday’s  Special: In the background

34 thoughts on “In the background on Zanzibar’s farms

  1. aside from technical perfection your images have a painterly quality that blends with the background information to these remarkable fruit growers

      1. Laura is right. I have thought the same thought many times 🙂 Thank you for another treat. What better place to visit than Africa on a grim pre-winter day.

  2. And I forgot to add – I really appreciate that you switched off fake snow :D. People have a blast with it on WordPress and I find it distracting. Very good move, Tish. Thank you 🙂

  3. Pondering the iron roof. I can see where it would be sturdier and possibly less leaky, but I would think it would also be hotter because it’s impermeable and won’t allow heat to escape. Just a thought. I suppose thatch is a lot of work to maintain … but I suspect it is better for the climate. Or maybe I’m just romanticizing.

    1. You are right on all fronts. Iron roofs makes homes into ovens, but indeed less leaky. Thatching was traditionally ‘womens’ work’, and a communal activity. Things change.

    1. Actually, Julie, they are pretty retro. Detail lost in time and scanning of old film. But thank you for the compliment. I like the effect too. When we lived in East Africa it always felt like a dream, and 8 years is a long time to inhabit a reverie 🙂

  4. Wonderful pictures and story, Tish. Farming is never light work, but farming vertically is even tougher 🙂 I also wonder about the Muscovy Duck’s story.

  5. Everything looks so lush, Tish. I cannot imagine climbing trees like that to harvest bananas. I simply could not do it. Being terribly arachnophobic, I wouldn’t go near those freshly picked bananas, no matter the bribe offered. Coconuts. Now there’s a safe crop — unless you’ve heard of coconut spiders. 😉

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