Local guide Faama leads a tour with heart in Zanzibar

February 26, 2019
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Urban Adventures

Faama Ali is busy with tour bookings. Without ever planning on it, she has become one of the many Zanzibaris who make their living from tourism.

“I’m working almost every day, and I have even hired another woman from my village to help me when I have several bookings on the same day,” Faama explains. “I host the Zesty Zanzibar tour in my home, and I also work at the spice farm, cooking lunch and demonstrating local cuisine and dressing traditions to the groups.”

Before getting involved in tourism, Faama was making a living from small businesses like cooking for the people in her village. She was born in the same area she still lives, in the middle of Zanzibar, far from the popular beach spots. This part of the island is lush and green; the hub of spice farming, which used to be the main livelihood in Zanzibar.

READ MORE: Tips for your first trip to Zanzibar

Like the majority of Zanzibaris, Faama went to school for the compulsory nine years, but then decided not to continue further. It’s a common story, and most of the women in her village do the same – they raise children, take care of the family home, and engage in small businesses and farming.

More work but less stress

Since starting to host the Zanzibar Urban Adventures group, Faama’s income has grown significantly, to a level that might seem unreachable to many in her village.

“I’m a mother of four children, living with my husband. Now that I’m working regularly our income has really grown. I don’t need to worry about the future of my kids anymore,” is what Faama mentions as the most important change in her life. “We are also planning to build a new house for our family, and maybe someday we can also buy a car.”

On the tours, Faama opens her own home for visitors to see. It’s unusual, and often the kids in the village are very curious about what is happening. Travellers are very interested in how locals live, and many want to see inside the house, beyond the outdoor kitchen.

“They want to see how we live, even how we sleep. I don’t mind at all! It’s nice to let them learn about our traditional lifestyle.”

Outdoor kitchen in Zanzibar

Cooking at the outdoor kitchen | Photo by Zanzibar Urban Adventures

Great food equals great success

The reason why Zanzibar Urban Adventures reached out to Faama, is that in her village she was known as a great cook. Since she was already running a small local kitchen, it felt logical to ask her to start cooking for tourists, too.

Her specialties are coconut-based vegetarian sauces, fried fish, cooked banana and pilau rice, which is the most common menu on the tours as well. All ingredients are sourced locally (with the exception of rice some of the time). Local produce is organic, and so are the surrounding spice farms. This is Zanzibari food at its most genuine.

READ MORE: A foodie’s guide to the flavours of Stone Town, Zanzibar

One of the highlights of the tour is getting to see how coconut milk is made, and giving the visitors a chance to try it out themselves. Not an easy job to say the least!

Even though the cooking conditions are humble, cleanliness is always made a priority. Everything served is boiled in clean water, cooked with clean utensils, and served from spotless pots. The result is a fun, interactive experience that allows visitors to not only enjoy an authentic meal, but also to learn more about Zanzibari culture right from a local.

Experience authentic Zanzibari hospitality for yourself on our Zesty Zanzibar tour.