Practicing The Art of “Dolce Far Niente” On The Beaches Of Zanzibar
From Tanzania, we flew back to Zanzibar, where we worked on perfecting the art of “Dolce Far Niente” on the beaches of Zanzibar.
To be honest, I am nearly a master at this art, and Jules is showing excellent progress in mastering it as well.
“Dolce Far Niente” is an Italian saying which means, “The sweetness of doing nothing.”
The art of doing nothing is not at all easy to cultivate.
Many people do nothing, but they either feel guilty, or spend their time drinking alcohol or overeating their emotions to oblivion.
It is easy to do nothing and be lazy, but it requires skill to cultivate the art of “Dolce far Niente, the sweetness of just being.”
On the beaches of Zanzibar, we experienced the pleasure of simply being idle.
We started by staying a week at famous Nungwe beach.
Located on the Northern coast of Zanzibar, we did not love being surrounded by large resorts packed to capacity with tourists.
No doubt Nungwe is the most famous beach in Zanzibar, but while it was a nice, white sandy beach, we were happy to move on to Matemwe beach.
We stayed for another week at Matemwe beach, where we chose to stay in a small and friendly family-run resort.
Unlike the big luxury resorts with their huge buffets offering boring, stale food, this small resort was beautiful, very clean and offered wonderfully made to order food.
Every day we took long walks on the beach and drank coconut water straight from the trees, brought to us by the same men who climbed the tall trees to bring us this life restoring nectar.
On our walks around Matemwe beach, we saw men who caught octopus while free diving with a spear, and then spent more than an hour “tenderizing” it by smacking it on the sand again and again.
The coast is lined with small resorts and wooden fishing boats.
After a fun week of doing nothing in Matemwe, we moved on to Paje Beach.
Paje is known as the best beach in Zanzibar for kite surfing.
This stretch of beach is very tidal, and it is lined with small hotels, restaurants, cafes, guesthouses and beach sports shops offering kite surfing lessons and snorkeling trips.
We loved it so much that we stayed in Paje for almost three weeks.
Every day we took long walks on the beach, read multiple books, and mostly sat in cafes observing the people and the kite surfers as they flew and glided over the water.
I vowed to take lessons in kite surfing the next time we come to Zanzibar. It looked like so much fun.
The beach was full of vendors, most of them young, tall and skinny Maasai men who were selling souvenirs from Tanzania.
All of them came from Arusha or Ngorongoro, and were trying to create a different kind of life for themselves.
They subsist on a daily meal of rice and beans cooked in coconut milk, which is offered at most of the local restaurants for about $1.
The Maasai men gather every two days on the beach, to practice their jumping and guttural chanting.
It seemed like these gatherings gave them a sense of home and community.
Other vendors were selling Cash-nuts (Cashew nuts), colorful sarongs, fresh fruit or ‘coconut Jew’ (coconut juice), saying that it is the “Zanzibar Coca Cola.”
Some vendors offered scooter rentals that you can ride on the beach at low tide all the way south to Jambiani, and all the way north to Dongwe.
After a few days in Paje, we settled into a slow rhythm.
We ate a breakfast of avocado sourdough toast with tomato, cucumbers and onion, a fresh juice of passion fruit and mango, and green tea.
After breakfast we meditated and did our Course In Miracles lesson for the day.
Then we walked on the beach for about two hours.
We walked barefoot, because the tides kept the white sand pretty cool, so our feet never felt hot.
At first we tried different restaurants for lunch every day.
But after awhile we simply settled on our favorite cafe, Mr. Kahawa, which serves a delicious selection of great, clean and healthy foods.
The cafe is part of a business owned by a Dutch couple.
They offer kite surfing rentals and lessons, comfortable beach front accommodations and this very popular cafe.
The cafe is so popular, that you are lucky if you can find a good table or a seat on the beach sofas.
Most people stay for hours, eating, drinking, talking, socializing or just reading.
In the late afternoon, we would walk back to our hotel, take showers and do more reading until evening.
Then we would refuse the lady who came to do a “room turn down,” which included stretching the mosquito netting around the bed, closing the curtains, replacing used towels and spraying the room until heavy clouds of bug spray fogged our room, ensuring that we would not be bitten by mosquitoes.
Every night we ate dinner at a different restaurant in Paje.
We tried the local BBQ restaurant where we shared one of the communal tables with several Maasai young men, the beach front fish restaurant that only Russian and Ukraine tourists ate at, a newly opened Israeli restaurant and many others.
After dinner, we would walk to the market to buy a lime or passion fruit ice cream, which we would eat sitting outside our room, looking at the stars and getting intimate with the night sky over Zanzibar.
My favorite part of each day was sitting in the Mr. Kahawa cafe and observing the people coming in and out of the cafe.
I told myself that I should not just gaze.
I should be productive, make some sketches or write something wise or share ideas on my blog, instead of just looking around, allowing my mind to be as non judgmental as I can, but I did not do that.
Instead, I looked at the purple bougainvilleas climbing on a white wall, and I smelled the scent of plumeria, while the sweet velvety voice of Carla Bruni filled the air.
She was singing in French from her album “Salut Marin,” and tears filled my eyes.
My heart yearned for something deep and eternal.
Everything in this world seemed to be so transitory…. Bodies, youth, strength, relationships, power, all come and go like the tides of the ocean that I was observing…. It all seemed so sad….
A blond mother walked by with her half black toddler who was just learning to walk.
The toddler was about seven months of age and she cannot speak yet, but she was so engaged and alert and able to indicate when she wanted to stop, and where she wanted to walk towards.
Her mother held her arms as she strides on her bowed baby legs.
The baby walks totally naked, wearing no diapers.
She strides with lots of confidence and interest, exploring the magical world around her.
Everything was new and exciting to her, her afro hair was uncut and stood up tall, free and beautiful.
She stops and points at what she wants to explore and her mother holds her little chubby baby arms, and guides her towards it.
This baby lives in her own paradise.
For her, there is no world infected with Covid, no bodies that are aging, no worries, no wars, no refugees seeking safety, no political oppression, no global warming and no environmental pollution.
A French family with two teenage boys sit at a table next to us.
The boys have long stylish hair, which they style quite frequently with their hands, pulling it over one eye or raising it up with a twirl.
They are sitting in their bathing suits without any shirts.
I notice that their armpit hair is just growing out, and their chests are bare and smooth.
Their younger sister has honey colored hair and surprisingly large breasts for her young age.
She seemed to be about twelve years of age.
She is sitting in a bikini next to her handsome dad.
She runs her hands through his hair, hugs his neck often, and leans in to laugh at his jokes and kiss him.
It would have looked totally normal if she were not a budding young woman with fully developed breasts.
But with the way she has developed, she looks like Lolita, and is attracting second looks from many people in the cafe.
Her attractive mother sits on the other side of the Dad, and she is completely ignored by her daughter.
My mind paints images of their past incarnations and how this family came to bond together in this life time and why….
I let the thoughts wash over me and disappear, holding on to none of them.
A very attractive Dutch family with three kids sit at another table near me.
I have seen this family every day now, and I have enjoyed looking at them.
The father is exceedingly handsome and very fit.
The mother is beautiful and fit, and they cannot take their hands off one another.
They are hugging, caressing and touching one another all the time.
Their oldest daughter is not into kite surfing.
They have a teenage son and a younger boy who is only about ten years of age.
He is not yet allowed to kite surf by himself.
His teenage brother takes him to kite surf on his board, by strapping him to his back.
Both the mother and the father are excellent kite surfers.
Another couple who are regulars in the cafe are a young Dutch couple with their two month old baby.
The husband loves kite surfing and he often returns to the cafe on breaks between surfing, sharing an avocado toast or a pie with his young wife, who nurses the baby while sitting on the sofas.
A part of me is worried for the safety of the baby.
Zanzibar and Tanzania are full of Covid, although they do deny its existence.
People simply get sick and get over it, developing antibodies towards the disease.
When we walked wearing masks in a very busy and crowded market, people called to us: “You do not have to wear masks, there is no Coronavirus in Zanzibar.”
I really enjoyed spending long lazy days on the beaches of Zanzibar.
The culture and the people are gentle, and I love gentle people.
The food is good, the scenery is beautiful, the prices are excellent and there is a slow and livable rhythm to the days, as if time is not a factor.
After spending another week in Stone Town, we flew back to Colorado.
In Denver, we walked to the Botanical Gardens to see an exhibition of Salvador Dali and walk among the beautiful flowers.
A woman stoped her car at a traffic light, rolled down her window and called out to me: “I LOVE YOU!!!”
I am not sure what she meant to say.
Did she love my hat, my pants, my shirt, my bag?
She had no time to elaborate as the traffic light changed and she needed to drive on, waving goodbye at me.
Another woman in the Botanical Gardens told me: “I love your pants,” pointing at the pants I had bought in Zanzibar.
Still the sweet feeling I got from the woman at the traffic light who told me she loved me for no reason, stayed with me all day long.
I took it as a sign from the Universe that I am loved, even if she meant to say something else.
Sending you love and blessings,