Posts Tagged ‘Indian Ocean’

Searching for Freddie Mercury in Stone Town, Zanzibar

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Calm sunrise in Stone Town, Zanzibar

I recently returned from my big trip to Africa, where I visited Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa. The first stop on this trip was Stone Town, Zanzibar.

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Changing planes in Dar es Salaam

Zanzibar was the first place I ever visited in Africa, and I hadn’t been back in over 15 years. Located off the coast of Tanzania, in East Africa, Zanzibar played an important role in both the Spice Route and was a key port in the slave trade. But Zanzibar’s most famous export is the late singer and legendary Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury.

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Rainbow at the DAR airport

Born Farrokh Bulsara, Mercury was born in Zanzibar to Persian immigrant parents who lived on the island to avoid religious persecution. On my first visit to Zanzibar over a decade ago, I was surprised by how little the tour guides knew about Mercury. Mercury’s openly homosexual lifestyle was at odd’s with Zanzibar’s prominently Muslim culture. I remember saying to my tour guide at the time, “yes, but he’s still FREDDIE f*cking MERCURY.”

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School girls in Stone Town, Zanzibar

I’m a huge music fan. And I’m not the only Queen nut who has come to Zanzibar to pay homage the legendary singer. Fortunately the island has warmed to Freddie since my last visit. There are now Freddie Mercury tours and even a Mercury House (part of the Tembo Hotel). Vice even wrote this piece about the uptick in Freddier Mercury related tourism.

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Left: a shaft of light in the slave holding quarters in Stone town Right: Park of the East African Slave Trade Memorial on Zanzibar

Zanzibar has made peace with it’s notorious roots in the East African slave trade. I have to think that it’s just a matter of time before it softens to Freddie Mercury’s lifestyle. At least I hope it is.

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The Tembo Hotel in Stone Town.

If you’re still not convinced that Freddie Mercury wasn’t incredible, I suggest you listen to this isolated track of vocals of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie singing Under Pressure.

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The new Park Hyatt Zanzibar in Stone Town

I understand Zanzibar’s tourism industry’s need to change the conversation regarding their most famous export. But Freddie will never be the island’s Favorite Son. What hit me, while I wandered the streets of Stone Town listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits, is that Freddie Mercury was always the odd man out.

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Giant doors in Stone Town

His Parsi parents were outsiders who lived in Zanzibar to escape religious persecution. And Freddie was gay at a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable, making him an outsider to his outsider parents.

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I have no idea about the authenticity of the Mercury House in Stone Town

If you chat with the locals, they love to discuss EPL soccer. But if you mention Freddie Mercury, they noticeably stiffen.

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Pictures of Freddie Mercury on display in Stone Town

I saw Bob Marley t-shirts and pants for sale in Zanzibar, and he was Jamaican. Freddie Mercury-related tourism may be on the upswing, but no one was selling souvenirs with the Queen front man’s face on them. And there were certainly no locals wearing Queen t-shirts.

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The Mercury House in Stone town

So if you are fellow Queen fan who finds yourself in Stone Town, I suggest wandering around town with your earbuds in, listening to Queen, and taking in what it feels like to be an outsider.

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Spices for sale at the market in Stone Town

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Woman cooking breakfast in Stone Town

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Locals cooling off after a hot day in Stone Town

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 Soccer on the beach is a nightly ritual in Stone Tow

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Playing football in flip flops

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Sunset soccer on the beach

Or watch the locals play soccer on the beach at sunset while listening to Somebody to Love.

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 Dhows at Sunset in Stone Town

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A Stay at Maia Luxury Resort on Mahe Island, Seychelles

Panorama of the view from villa 218

I visited the Seychelles for the first time in December, 2014 and stayed at Maia Luxury Resort using free nights my husband earned as member of LHW’s Leaders Club Unlimited program. Maia Luxury resort is small and intimate, with just 10 oceanfront villas and 20 panoramic villas.

A fountain in the private plunge pool of villa 218

We were picked up at the Seychelles International Airport by chauffeured car and driven the 40 minutes to the resort (we arranged the car transfers directly with the hotel for € 100 each way). Upon arrival, we were quickly checked in before being taken to Villa 218 by golf cart.

Left: views of the Indian Ocean from Maia Right: Plantains as an in-room amenity

Villa 218 is a panoramic villa which has incredible 180 degree views of the resort’s stunning peninsula location and the Indian Ocean below.

Maia’s luxurious bungalows and personalized butler service mean there is very little reason to leave your room, although it’s worth doing. I was glad I lured beyond the confines of my villa to check out Maia’s award-winning Balinese style spa and the hotel’s main restaurant, pool, and beach area.

Floating flowers at Maia Luxury Resort

The restaurant serves Asian, Indian, and Creole food with focus on fresh seafood and tropical flavors. The Indonesian dishes were standouts. We also had a memorable dinner in the resort’s Wine Boutique where the hotel’s sommelier showed us some of the resort’s most interesting wine bottles.

Left: chaises in the pool of villa 218 Right: Maia Resort’s main pool area

The resort has a high staff to guest ratio and focuses on personalized service. At first I found the service a bit intrusive, but once we spoke to the management we were able to step it back to a more comfortable level.

Pastel sunsets are the norm at Maia

The food was great from both room service as well as in the hotel’s main restaurant. I was impressed with my massage treatment at the spa and was glad I left to room to get it.

I still can’t get over this outdoor bath & shower at Maia

Maia’s away-from-it-all vibe reminded me a bit of Imanta Punta Mita.

A Balinese style daybed in Villa 218

The in-room amenities are Bulgari and the addition of sunscreen was appreciated.

I loved the tropical, elegant and zen decor in the rooms

The king sized bed was comfy, and wifi worked throughout the villa and in most of the public areas. It was hassle-free.

The fan helped keep things cool and the mosquito netting went mostly unused during our stay

The Sunset Pool Bar

Maia has an impressive collection of Cognac

Room service sushi at Maia

The front door of villa 218

There were other guests at the resort during our stay but we did not see or interact with them much. The resort seems geared towards privacy. This spot is great for couples or honeymooners who enjoy luxury and privacy.

Views of Maia Luxury Resort’s private stretch of beach

Watching a pastel sunset from the beach at Maia

Obligatory toes-in-the-sand selfie

This was the closest I got to other guests at Maia Luxury Resort

Villa rates start at $2,313.53 USD per night (making this property an excellent choice for free nights redemption as part of the LHW Leaders Club program.)

Maia Luxury Resort

Address: 5th June Ave, Anse Boileau, Seychelles

Phone:+248 4 390 000

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