National Geographic : 1952 Feb
262 Fork-bearded Silversmith Polishes the Sheath of a J-shaped Dagger No wellborn Arab in Zanzibar feels dressed without such a blade at his waist (page 267) ; the belt-borne dagger is a common accessory in southern Arabia (pages 223, 237). Women prefer bracelets and anklets (lower right). snatched from some Arabian Nights tale and transplanted here beside the blue sea. White balconied buildings, labyrinthine lanes, and oriental bazaars might well belong to Arabia or Cairo. Lacking only are gaily tiled mosques and soaring minarets. Mosques are small and inconspicuous in accordance with the Ibathi Moslem belief in simplicity. Actually the town is not old. When Wash ington, D. C., was staked out beside the Potomac, there was little more than a small native village on Zanzibar's present site. Much of the town was built after Sultan Seyyid Said made it his capital 120 years ago. Zanzibar had no L'Enfant to plan broad thoroughfares like those of Washington. Most streets are narrow; early citizens built where they pleased. That there are any thorough fares at all is due mainly to the old regulation that, when a person built, he had to place the scaffolding on his own property. At the time of my visit Zanzibar's only hotel was so new it was still unfinished. The structure is one of those thick-walled old Arab houses, with ponderous, elaborately carved wooden doors studded with brass bosses, for which Zanzibar is famous. Installation of plumbing, plus minor alterations, was trans forming it into a hotel. The streets leading to the hotel are so narrow that only a bantam British car can drive to its door. A near-by street has been aptly dubbed "Suicide Alley," for buildings crowd it so closely that their walls are chipped and scarred by passing cars (page 277). Taxis and private cars abound, but their travel is largely confined to outlying roads. Within much of "Stone Town," as the main section is called, everybody walks. No Room to Get Lost "How do you find your way without get ting lost?" I asked a British resident who guided me through the maze of narrow lanes. "You can't get lost," he said. "Just keep walking and you'll come out at the sea front, on the bank of the creek, or find yourself back where you started. But you may have a bit of difficulty finding some specific place you want to go," he amended with a smile. So I started walking. Along winding lanes woven with dazzling sunshine and deep shadow I found old, beauti fully carved Arab doors. Their heavy panels, frames, and lintels were richly decorated with patterns of lotus, arabesques of frankincense and date trees, fish and chain motifs, and texts from the Koran. To many of the doors pointed brass bosses had been added, in imitation of gateways in India where such bosses once warded off charging war elephants (page 275).