On our second night in Zanzibar, we decided to eat where the locals eat. During the meal, a local took advantage of our trust, stealing money from us.
After a great dinner at the Park Hyatt Zanzibar the first night, we opted to venture out and try something a bit more authentic. Not far from the Park Hyatt is Forodhani Gardens, which I pictured by day in my photo tour of Stone Town.
>> Read More: Review: Park Hyatt Zanzibar
>> Read More: An Amazing Journey Through Stone Town in Zanzibar (Pictures)
At night, the area is transformed into a vibrant market where many locals come for their evening meals. I had noticed when walking from the ferry port to the hotel the previous evening that the food looked and smelled great.
We walked over (5 minutes) and decided upon döner kepab / shawarma. Not only did it look delicious, but the stand was swarming with locals.
There is poverty — both hidden and blatant — in Zanzibar, yet it is not the type of extreme poverty seen in neighboring countries in Africa or in the slums of Mumbai (to use two examples).
A man approached us and asked to “help”. He would “order” for us and told us to have a seat on a vacant bench nearby and he would bring us our food. We knew he just wanted a tip but humored him because was so persistent.
Afraid that I might get a $20 bill for a sandwich (like I once did for a street taco in Mexico City because I failed to negotiate a price beforehand), I asked the price when ordering. 2,000 Tanzanian Schillings (less than $1). The sandwich was so wonderful I ordered another.
Our “friend” insisted on bringing me the second sandwich too. He then asked for 6,000 Schillings to pay for the sandwiches. I handed him the money (exact amount) and watched him take it over to the shawarma stall.
He returned and asked about drinks. There was a stand selling drinks nearby and we both requested a bottle of water. He ran over, grabbed the water, and came back. He said that would be 4,000 schillings (about $2). Steep, but these were large bottles. I only had a 10,000 note, which I handed him. He said he would bring me the change right back.
But he did not. Instead, he disappeared.
After a few minutes we knew he wasn’t returning. Denny just laughed and let it roll right off, but I was furious. We were talking about less than $5 — but average annual income in Zanzibar is $250 and had he just asked, we may have even given him more than what amounted to $4.50.
Admittedly, I spent 10 minutes looking for him. But he was long gone. We paid for the water and returned to the Park Hyatt.
This sort of thing happens all over the world and of course I should have known the moment I handed over the 10,000 Schilling note I would never get any change back, but there is always something so off-putting about being stolen from, no matter how small the amount.
I hope the man was able to feed his family with the ~$4.50. Keep an eye out for people wanting to help in the Forodhani Gardens Sunset Market and pay for your food directly. If you want to help others, do so on your terms and not like me, on the terms of the beggar.