In Stone Town, walking with ﬂamboyant guide Farid Hamid, who saunters through the alleyways with a large bag of historical artefacts, we drink fresh pressed sugar-cane juice (sugar cane arrived with the Arabian sultans of Oman) and buy a plate of kachoris, a deep fried pastry and pea snack with Indian origins. Goans, Yemenis, Chinese and Parsis (Freddy Mercury’s family being the most famous Parsis in Zanzibar) have all left their print on the cuisine.
While the spice plantations are largely defunct today and small estates gain interest mainly from tourists, when the Arabs realised they could eliminate costly voyages to the Far East, they employed the locals, those not sold as slaves, to cultivate spice plantations, subsequently rendering the island invaluable in the spice trade route. It was the Indonesian clove tree, introduced to Zanzibar in 1812, that annexed a lucrative portion of Indonesia’s spice trade, making the island the largest producer of cloves at the time.
Arab sultans also introduced ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin and lemongrass. Economically, Zanzibar relied solely on its spice plantations after the demise of the slave trade. It may have lost its position as the leading exporter of cloves, but several of these spices appear in homebrewed remedies for everything from colds to toothache and fertility treatments, and the food, of course.