️ "Miejsca, których nie pokazuję turystom" - ZANZIBAR
Every marketing professional will tell you that nothing sells as well as a good story. What do I mean? For example: after the success of the Eat, Pray, Love movie, the small island of Bali became the hotspot for all Asia-touring backpackers. Narcos, the series, made Colombia a huge hit once again, ok, not sure if "once again", but at a certain point it was the most popular destination in South America.
And trips along the footsteps of Pablo Escobar became hugely popular, because Netflix made a whole season about him. Next example: Transylvania. People associate the region with Count Dracula, who is a fictional character, but is based on a historical figure, a figure who was a tyrant and a psychopath, who murdered thousands, hundreds of thousands of his own subjects. Right now you can buy a trip t hat follows his activities in the region, or visit his place of births, that's a restaurant right now. I told you all of this in my film from Romania. In the beginning there's just one traveler.
In theory, every place on Earth has been already discovered, but they keep getting rediscovered time and time again. The excited traveler speaks of white sand, azure water and coconut trees. Others follow in the footsteps and carry the story further. The first hotel on Zanzibar was built in 1992.
Thirty years ago there are over 500 hotels on the island. Zanzibar sees over half a million tourists annually. Hi! Welcome to Zanzibar! I know, we don't show places like this on our channel often.
I need to say something very clearly. Everybody travels the way they want to. I'm not the one to judge this. I really understand that after a difficult year, after a whole year of working hard we want to go somewhere to relax and rest.
Lie next to a pool with a drink in hand, with a clean, air-conditioned room, you don't need to worry about anything, everything is organized for us. I myself, if I worked, say, in a corporation, I would go for something like that myself, but I do hope that for the sake of argument we can think a bit outside the box, and talk about why that is. How do we, the tourists, change certain places, how we change the world and how is that possible that we keep distorting certain facts. This is Laura. We met a few months earlier and she was the one to convince us to visit Zanzibar.
She's been living here for a few years. She organizes trips and tours, mostly for Polish people. She also rents out a house for the guests to stay in. Tourism has been blooming since around the year 2000 here in Zanzibar, the neighbour that visited us says that she came here around 20 years ago, and when she came to Kiwengwa there was no electricity in the village, there were practically no roads. They built hotels, but there was no electricity, so generators were used, there are still some generators left here and there. We also met this woman on Mafia island who's been living here since 1996.
And she also said: there was nothing in Kiwengwe, do you live there now? Because there was nothing there. We are going to a village called Matemwe. It's a village in the north-east part of the island that has seen tourism for the first time a few years ago.
The local people are not very used to tourists. They have nice, wide beaches. And they live differently than in the move touristic villages. Women are pumping water, because the houses don't have water, there's a big problem with that here. But every village has either a well, or a water pump.
The water is free, but it needs to be pumped and taken to the house. This is something that women and children do. Regardless of where we are in the island, we always get offers to take a boat and snorkle, or take a trip to other islands in the region. Foreigners on Zanzibar are mostly people on holiday, who are a source of income for the local community.
Yes, they do ask, but if you're not interested they don't force you like in many other countries. They come, they want to sell us something, some people get angry over this, that somebody bothers us and tries that, but it's their work, they want to earn money, they don't beg for money, they want to do business, sell something. - Different type of business. - Yes, completely different.
We came to visit a local market, where people come to buy fish, but it's too soon for that. For the fishing boats to be able to reach the beach they will need high tide. A lot of people coming back from Zanzibar talk about a slow life and a general feeling of relaxation, caused by a predictable, tropical climate and a rhythm of life dependant on the tides. The ocean provides food: fish, algae, and other seafood. Today we're filming in the sun, at noon, on the beach.
And we need to get out of the sun to avoid a heat-stroke. The locals are used to this weather and they spend the whole day here. The whole day, right? They live very modest lives, and frankly, the introduction of tourism does not influence their everyday life that much. They still fish using traditional methods, they live like this, meet friends, tell stories and share wisdom, they have time for each other and are jovial towards each other. They live completely different lives than we do back in Europe, We sometimes think it's impossible to live like this, to live such modest lives, but they are happy like this. Everywhere you look there's poverty until you reach a hotel, enclosed by a large wall, a gate, and once you enter luxury starts - beautiful plants, swimming pools, everything's so nice and taken care of, but just outside the walls everyday life looks much different.
Sometimes guests ask me what's the thing that irritates me the most here, or is the most surprising? Well, this is one of those situations, we've made an appointment for 1PM, five minutes ago the guy we are supposed to meet here calls me to ask me where I am... So I tell him I'll be here at 1PM, on the dot. So it's 1PM right now, we are here and he tells me he needs to go and pray. Ok, we'll wait 5 minutes... Do you think it's going to be 5 minutes? - Or is this going to be a while? - You need at least 5 minutes to get the mosque, so... I'm gonna...seriously...
I'm sorry... - But my mom tells me... - I know, she tells you to pray... Ok, let's go.
This is Fakir. - Hi, how are you? - Hi, I'm Kaja. - Is everything ok? - Yeah, things are fine. I have many names... - So how many names do you have? - No idea, Laura knows exactly.
- Yeah, we call him kefir sometimes. - Ah, that's what you mean. - I'm also called Black Friday. - Black Friday?! It's because he plays football, that's why.
We've asked Fakir, a Zanzibari man who works with Laura as a guide, to go to a village together. A Bibi* [an older woman, a grandmother] also joined us to do some shopping and help us pick some products to buy for the visit. We let Fakir know in advance that we didn't want a regular guided tour, instead we just wanted to spend some time with the local community. In the village everybody was already prepared for our arrival.
The women wrapped our heads as an element of the pre-planned visit attraction. We didn't have a lot of time to spend in just one place, because there was already a plan in place for our time in the village. We went to see the well, saw somebody cut down coconuts, we peeked inside a house. We recorded this footage to show you what regular life looks like in Zanzibar.
However, the contact with the people here, although very polite, was quite distancing, we: the observers, them: the observed. The people here know very well what the tourists want and they deliver. But it's impossible not to see that it's just an arrangement, everyday life in a nutshell. Anyone can visit a place like this, the local communities make money this way. It was us today, tomorrow it's going to be some other tourists. What is the difference in the life of a village when there are tourists here and when there are no Mzungu here? There's no Mzungu...
I mean the difference... There is a difference, normally the tourists get and see different things, we live locally on Zanzibar, right now, since there are Mzungu around, everybody helps out, that's what we do. Now there are Mzungu here, but when they are gone, the village will look differently.
- So, normally there would be no crowd? - No, just the family members. There's nothing wrong with all of this, as long as both sides are happy, however, we leave, yet again, feeling that's it's not easy to break the barrier created by the touristic industry during the last decades. The thing I dislike the most is when people jump out with the cameras right away, sometimes they just run with the camera in hand, I think that people need time to become comfortable with being photographed. It's against their beliefs, they think that pictures steal their souls, You know, it's the same with us, we also don't like to be photographed. Whenever somebody takes out the camera and tries to take a photo of us, I usually turn away.
Because why would somebody be taking a photo of me? And it's the same for them, they are the same, they dislike certain things. I sometimes get the question of whether it's ok to photograph people here? Well, I can ask you the same question: when I go somewhere, is it ok to make photos of me? Of us? Probably not. For us an interesting topic is how the people work here. But when they work they sometimes have dirty clothes on, they don't look great, and we also dislike being photographed like that. But around the holidays, when everybody's dressed up, they look great, the women have full make-up, then they want to pose for photographs, obviously.
It's often said that mass-tourism is a form of theatre tailored to meet the demands of the audience. There this something in all of us who travel that makes us want to see the same things at the same time. I don't just want to say that Instagram changed the face of tourism, and the way we think about going places, because that's like saying nothing at all. So, I'll try to explain.
If you have ever framed a pictured in such a way to avoid showing something that you felt didn't fit into the picture, well, this is the first step. Then you show these pictures to your friends, similar pictures end up in brochures and on postcards, also in some guidebooks. And this is what our expectation of a given place looks like before we get there. Once people get there they might feel a bit disappointed that it's not exactly what they've been expecting, but still they will try to take pictures in such a way, that they pictures will fit the images in their heads. We are ready for the holidays, we want to relax and watch nice things. We are also focused on things that we will be looking for during such a vacation.
We are pre-defined even before we get to a certain place. For mass-tourism to develop in a given location the area needs to undergo a process of a certain standardisation, perhaps you've noticed that a lot of places in the world look very similar, the hotels are similar, the services are similar, the tours and trips are similar. The biggest difference is the scenery and the people. Everything needs to get the approval of as many tourists as possible.
So in turn, when we take part in a trip, or tour, or a vacation like that, we just repeat more of the same and solidify the expectations of what a paradise vacation should look like. A sudden bloom of tourism in a country of the global south is both a blessing and a curse at the same time. Because everything has a price.
The operation of a few hundreds of luxury hotels requires a large supply base. Here in Stone Town we find the largest fishing harbour on the island. But the large demand and quality requirements of the hotels mean that the small, local suppliers, lacking in experience, are unable to meet the steep demands and are thrown out of the supply chain. The fishermen don't leave the boat, they just reach the harbour, or a beach, because this doesn't only happen here, there's a lot of spots like these around, and they wait. People reach them with buckets, or other containers and buy at the lowest price, people who go into the water, get wet, will get the fish at the lowest possible price, they take the fish to the shore and resell them, even tho it's only around 50 meters. At the same time the cost of living on the island rises.
Most of the investors are foreigners, who buy land next to the ocean at relatively good prices, but high enough so that the locals have no chance of buying the land themselves. The positions in the work industry for the local people are seldom in management. A lot of reports suggest that the touristic industry, aside from actually creating work places and developing local infrastructure, has a very small impact on reducing poverty levels on the island, and has established very few ties to the local economy. Big money and investments, although in the same place, are mostly circulating within the touristic sector, which allows the tourists to spend their whole time on the island in hotels, where all their needs are taken care of. Roads are being built, there's more traffic and more trash is being produced, there's really a lot of trash that people in Zanzibar can't handle, there's a ton of bottles, water bottles, shampoo bottles, and all of this impacts the environment very strongly, it affects how the island looks like, you see for yourselves the amount of trash everywhere, this kind of trash is mostly left behind white people, of course it's the locals who can't handle the trash, but it's we who leave them here.
Why don't you show these places to tourists? Tourists expect nice places, known places, they want to see things they've already seen, places they've been shown, you have to remember that they only come for a short while here and they don't want to focus on the local life that much, they prefer to spend their time seeing things that they've already seen in pictures. This is probably the saddest thing you'll see on Zanzibar. There's trash everywhere, or at least in places not visited by tourists.
The trash is collected from the beaches, but in villages and in cities the trash is just laying around, as the handling of trash is not well developed over here, I'm not sure how it works exactly, I tried finding out, but to no avail. The degradation of the environment does not only happen due to waste, the amount of people interested in trips to other island, or coral reefs, often translates into hundreds of boats in the same locations, there are no limits to how many people can participate. The boats are loud, the tourists use sunscreens just before entering the water, all of this destroys the ecosystem, which, ironically, is the biggest attraction here.
For us: it's entertainment, for others it's a source of food and other resources, There are a lot of topics like this one here. It's not possible not to interact with the people on the island, they ae very direct, and they have no problem with talking to tourists, plus: it's their business to do it. When I posted on my instastory a walk on the beach I did some time ago, and I mentioned this, I got a few messages asking how to deal with them. I know a lot of people get angry about this, about the fact you can't walk on the beach alone without being bothered all the time.
But that's how it is over here, that's the style in which business is conducted, people buy and sell things here, the beach is a marketplace, so, be nice to these people... Just to be clear: I'm not telling you to be nice to them because the have it tough, we don't need to justify being nice, I mean: why not just be nice? Ok, so in the end I didn't tell you how to handle this kind of situation. Well, you don't have to handle anything. If you politely decline an offer a few times, they will just leave you alone, they will not force the trip on you in any way.
Talking to people on the beach, for a lot of people on Zanzibar, is a way of reaching their clients. Even though Zanzibar was one of the few places in the world that remained open to tourists despite the covid pandemic, there were still fewer guests on the island than in the past. And it is them, working outside the largest tour operators, who have felt it the most. Additionally, there is no other way of meeting them, because our worlds, even though they are next to each other, practically don't mix. We spend our time on Zanzibar in a completely different way than the local people of Zanzibar. The work of Omar and his friends is dependant not only on the tourists, but also on the weather.
We met through our mutual friends, and Omar agreed to spend a day with me as my guide, even though it's not his line of work. He also agreed to show me his neighbourhood. I spent the day with Omar on walking and talking about different things. This one day, these few sentences are not his story, nor the story of Zanzibar. But even these few moments, talking about the differences in our lives, have shown me, that the expression "hakuna matata", that we borrow so happily, and start using it after just a short while on the island, tells a story with a completely different meaning and completely different approach to problems than we might think. Another problem... or rather: another aspect,
that keeps us in our information bubble is the fact that all travel show on tv, including this film! Are made by people from our culture. I am telling you about Zanzibar, not a person from Zanzibar. And regardless of how much we try, or how many books we've read, or how much research we've done, it always comes down to what's right in front of our eyes, the music, the outfits, elements of culture. But we always lack a wider perspective, to understand exactly why certain things happen, we lack the culture codes.
We don't know what life here looks like, we don't know what's the pace of work, we don't know how kids are raised here. The camera is heavy, I need to sit down. You sometimes write to us to tell us that we don't publish often enough. Yes, we publish seldom. And YouTube's algorithm also knows this and doesn't like it, because it works in a way that if there's no new films for three months the next film will not be suggested to everybody, which means that it doesn't really support digging deep in one place.
However, I am unable to handle the imposter syndrome, because after a few years on YouTube we know what you'll like and what's clickable, I know that we all have a tendency to make the world weird beyond measure, to show it through this lens, that blows some things our of proportion, ignores other things and creates interest. Television programs have their own deadlines, they have their budgets and need to wrap a whole season in a short amount of time, tv needs to make things into entertainment. The culture of excess, that's what I call this.
But at the same time we need those information bubbles because we are unable to be experts in everything, and we are unable to handle this amount of information... ...without simplifying it somehow. Our vacation dreams are not only created in travel agencies, we do it ourselves as well. We encourage one another to create a habit of looking at the world, a habit of what to expect from the world, of what is fun, what is fun in our world, in our culture and ultimately: what will look great on Instagram.
At the same time, all of us would like to experience something real while on vacation, something genuine. At the same time, not all of us are read to get disappointed with the real world. It might turn out that this reality is not fun enough, or not different enough, or not exotic enough.
We don't eat in local bars, because we are afraid of getting a food poisoning, we don't use public transport, because we are afraid it might be dangerous, hands up all of you who have thought that in the past. This film is not aimed at judging anything, or telling you if you should go, where to go, or how to get there, or what's good, or bad. Today, a division into tourists and real travellers is a fictitious one. This is just a collection of a few facts and thoughts that are rarely discussed in the context of traveling, and traveling, ultimately, should educate us.
I'm not sure if they do. Perhaps we just learn a version of the truth that we've come for, or perhaps we learn to change the world in a way that fits our way of life? Ok, so I'm taking back everything I've said about things being normal. There's tourists here as well and the girls asked me for...
...for a pen. That I don't have. There's going to be a separate film on the topic. Subscribe Subtitles: Too-Much