News from Marafiki

In the rhythm of ocean tides

 The Zanzibar beach has practical functions and lives in harmony with the moon phases and the ocean mood. Depending on the time of the day it is the road, the workplace, the bath, the farm field, the quai for the fishing boats. This is where the men come to do the morning wash and start the new day. Just after seven o'clock the students turn up on the beach. Still a bit sleepy, in the school uniforms, barefoot, they carry the notebooks tied up with a string. If the tide allows, they walk to school along the beach, using the shortcut. They are followed by the adults going to work. They ride bikes along the coast where the sand is wet. The walkers use the subtle shade thrown by the palm tree tops.

Seaweeds plantations

When the low tide pulls the ocean away from the coastline, disclosing the sandy bottom covered by the reef pieces, the women who take care of the seaweed plantations come to the beach. Such plantations stretch for kilometres on the east coast of the island. In the places normally flooded by water during the high tide and now totally disclosed there are rows of sticks connected with a thin string to which the women attach the plants of algae so that they are not taken by waves when the sealevel rises. They work in silence wading in the water under the white hot sky. They check if the last tide didn't do any harm and correct the string. When the algae reach the proper size, they are harvested and hung on a wooden frame to let them dry. Then the beach smells of fresh iod – the scent of the ocean essence. Properly prepared seaweeds are purchased by the government for little money to be next exported for a multiplied amount of money to Asia, Europe or the USA, where the seaweeds will be processed into various cosmetics.

Shipyard on the sand

A few times a year, with the highest tides, the beach gets changed into a workshop. The fishers pull the wooden boats to the sand. They burn small fires in order to clean the boat's broadsides from parasites and then impregnate the wood with a special mixture called sifa – a kind of paste made of rancid fat. Sifa stinks horribly but has qualities which tend and insulate wood. 

In the late afternoon, when the equator heat gets easier, the beach is the field for the sportsmen of local football teams. They do press-ups, knee bends, flips, kicks. The trainings are watched by children. The most adventurous ones will soon play in the ocean. At dusk when muezin calls for the evening prayer, the beach gets empty. Then the sand crabs emerge from their hideaways to go hunting and the night life starts under the sea surface.


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