Kashiefa Ajam

 

Zanzibar City - Twenty-odd years have passed since three teenagers in crisp white blouses and maroon cotton skirts laid eyes on each other on the first day of high school. We hated each other. Truly!

By some strange twist of fate, in 1994 we were thrust together at a school sports event. We were forced to get along, and as the hot autumn day progressed, the friendship took off, blossomed and the chatter sprinted to a mile a minute as we sat in the stands of the old Greenpoint Stadium. The rest as they say is, literally, history.

Now we sit shoulder-to-shoulder on a Mango flight to Zanzibar, Tanzania - excited like the schoolgirls we were at Aloe High - grinning and giggling. Our dream island holiday is just three short hours away.

Rifqa Hendricks, Ronele Coetzee and I had exceptionally high hopes of a wild, week-long soiree, complete with adult food, cocktails and mocktails - no children, no bedtime stories and definitely no dirty dishes.

But the trip turned out to be everything but wild, though certainly not boring and without a doubt a holiday to remember.

The Sea Cliff Hotel Resort & Spa, perched on a hill in Kama Village, Mangapwani offered and delivered sharp, stylish and modern luxury, perfect for a relaxing, girlie getaway.

Our rooms, with their neutral decor and furnishings, were cooled by an air-conditioning system before we arrived - a welcome relief after a longish drive through the rural island in the harsh, yet titillating tropical African climate.

Our first stop had to be one of the resort’s two majestic crystal-clear pools, where we lay with our carefully picked out bathing costumes, clad in ultra-cool sunglasses and stretched out on loungers while sipping on ice cold mojitos.

There are no beaches but a long jetty projects over the water and sits on a breezy platform perfect for an evening sundowner.

A trip to Stone Town is a must. This can be organised with the hotel at no cost.

The drive there leaves one awe-struck - almost shocked - at the level of unwavering poverty. But the people of Zanzibar are happy, at peace, you soon realise. They live off the land because everything grows here from oranges, coconuts to bananas and papaya.

We spend a delightful few hours walking the cobbled streets of the island's capital with our knowledgeable, friendly and well-versed guide, Harry. Look him up. He will be the one wearing aviator sunglasses with an iPhone in his hand waiting outside the Serena Hotel in the centre of town.

We shopped while getting a fascinating history lesson about the country's rich history. It's colonial past and its European and Arab influences are still evident today.

And just as our perfect excursion ended, it started to rain, heavily. The cool showers were a much-needed reprieve after a hot and muggy day of shopping and mingling with the locals.

The bumpy path leading up to Sea Cliff is short. Along the road, the local men and women sit outside their huts or under trees to shelter from the hot sun.

And then you get sight of this incredibly impressive resort we got to call home for a few days.

The staff here speak enough English to get by, are gracious and always helpful.

The food buffets are a sight to behold at meal times. And there's a wide variety of themed cuisine each day.

On our last day, we forked out $80 (about R1 000) for a 45-minute minibus ride to Kendwa beach in the north of the island where we sunbathed, lounged underneath palm trees and swam in the turquoise ocean.

For a while there we forgot that we were moms, wives and employees with credit card debt, home loans and school fees to pay.

We were embracing the common term “pole-pole” which translates to “slowly-slowly” in Swahili - and had all but forgotten the fast-paced living of Joburg and Cape Town.

There is a quote that goes something like this: “Friends are like a good bra - supportive, hard to find, and always close to your heart.”

There couldn't be a truer sequence of words to so perfectly describe the beautiful friendship I share with my best friends, Rifqa Hendricks and Ronele Coetzee.

We are bound by secrets and life experiences, and two decades of friendship.

For more that 20 years, we have evolved from pimply-faced, awkward teens, to successful career-women with beautiful families. And magical, spicy Zanzibar has firmly solidified a bond which is sure to last a lifetime.

Independent Traveller