Know more about Zanzibar, the spice island
When Christopher Columbus arrived in America in 1492 looking for the route to spices, the Portuguese had already been exploring and mapping the coasts of Africa for decades with the same objective. Bartolomé Dias arrived at Cape of Good Hope in 1488, opening the route to the east and the Indian Ocean. And finally, in 1499, it was the celebrated Vasco de Gama who arrived at some beautiful African islands whose fragrance was perceived from a distance: the smell of spices.
Those islands were Unguja and Pemba, that is, Zanzibar. And it was quite predictable they would go down in history as the Islands of Spices.
The spices that made Zanzibar a crucial commercial enclave
Once you arrive in Zanzibar you will notice a subtle aroma in the air: it is the aroma of the spices, that the navigators of ancient times perceived before reaching its coasts. Arab merchants of the 8th century were already travelling to Zanzibar to look for these precious spices, and then Portuguese, Turks and English would do the same.
The most requested of them were pepper and clove. Not only for the taste but because its properties and its intense aroma made them ideal preservatives for meat in the pre-refrigerator era.
Then there was the Myristica, a marvellous tree whose fruit provided not one but two spices: nutmeg (which is the seed), and the mace (which is the shell that covers the seed). Both spices provide an unmistakable and magical flavour to sweet and savoury dishes (and the mace, also, provides a saffron-like orange colour), and have been used in Europe and Asia since the Middle Ages.
And then you had the queen of spices: the cinnamon, as exquisite as healthy, and traditionally used as a digestive, anti-inflammatory, and even aphrodisiac!
All of them and many others are still part of the commercial heart of Zanzibar. And not only for large-scale export: for the traveller, visiting the spice plantations means a full experience of aromas, colours and flavours that leave no one indifferent.
The truth is that, besides its environment, its beaches, its potential for water sports, and the richness of its history, Zanzibar also has a culinary culture to surprise visitors.
Time to get carried away by the exotic taste of spices!