Friday, June 19, 2009

beyond the beach of Matemwe, Zanzibar

Beyond the wide and white beach of Matemwe in Unguja Island (Zanzibar) is a string of villages not unlike many others in the northeast – they depend on the sea for a living. An obvious and ready work is fishing. The coastline, undeniably, sits on a healthy reef, renowned for snorkeling and diving, and boasts of a teeming population of fish, octopus and shells.

swirling trees
exceedingly tall coconut trees always seem to swirl all over the beach

Matemwe coastline
the tidal flat of Matemwe stretches about half a kilometer into the sea

Nowadays though, seaweed farming is becoming predominant, and majority of the several thousands of families in the area are engaged in this form of marine agriculture.

Matemwe seaweed drying
For lack of space, hang-drying is the preferred mode of desiccation of cultivated seaweed

a seaweed “gate” leads you towards the beach

I was able to visit this place four years ago and I noticed a perceptible alleviation of overall standards in Matemwe. There are now more stone houses instead of temporary ramshackle dwellings. Some of the roofs are now in corrugated GI sheets although woven coconut leaf roofs are still common.

traditional stonehouse
a traditional stone house uses limestone held together by a mixture of mud and clay

Matemwe door
a heavily carved "Zanzibar" door in a warehouse in Matemwe

Fortunately, the increase of population in Matemwe comes with better public facilities. Water now runs in public taps provided for by the government. Local mosques have also sprung up and these were all community-built and financed by a pool of fund collected from local taxes.

Matemwe daughter and father
note the dark kohl around the eyes of the crying girl (she was afraid of us, strangers!)

And where there is a visually endless stretch of powdery white, fine grain sand, there would be the resorts. I count at least eight of them in the map. There could definitely be more in the future.

coconut shadows

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