One week ago: We were sitting in the Cultural Arts Centre when Tourguide Farid followed by a group of tourists entered the gallery. Today he didn’t only have interesting facts about the Arts Centre, but also told us about his self-organised Bread, or Mikate (Kiswahili for Bread) Party which should take place at the 8th of October. We were cordially invited. After handing us a flyer he continued his tour and dissappeard among the alleys of Stone Town.
A Bread-Party? A Mikate Party? That doesn’t sound so spectacular. But as we hadn’t been to a party about bread before and Farid‘s way of telling us made us curious, we decided to visit the event anyway.
To us, bread sounds kind of dry and simple. Barely exciting. Accordingly to that we headed off to the Park Hyatt Hotel, where the event should take place, without any great expectations but still open-minded. The event area was set on a terrace and a small area of green garden. A fountain was in the centre which was surrounded by bread stalls. After we started to explore more of this area we met up with a lot of familiar faces right away. Among others we encountered Khamis from JMJV. He proudly showed us a bin which was placed by the JMJV-Team. It invited people to fill it up. With this the waste definitely ends up in the right hands.
We continued our exploration walk and found bread from a huge variety of countries across the world. A variety of bread, from the daily-seen bread Mkate wa Ufuta (Sesame seeds) and Chapati to Spice Cake to specialties from Oman and Ethiopia. For every sort of bread they also provided country-specific dips like Guacamole, Hummus, Pesto and Ricotta. It was such a variety. Every stall was presented in a different way and invited you to have a try. The more stalls we discovered, the more we asked ourselves if we have to pay to try the bread. We couldn’t imagine that such a huge variety of food might not cost us anything. After a short welcome speech to all, Farid handed all of us a plate and directed us to the next stall. “Karibu Chakula” were our keywords for feeling free to try any we would like to try. Therefore our question was answered. Now we were officially allowed to dip into this paradise of bread.
There was enough for everyone. When we paused for a second, one of our colleagues dragged us to the next stall and filled our plate. It didn’t matter if we had already tried the food there, the plate was not allowed be empty. Yes, we enjoyed this overload of delightful flavors and didn’t want to miss a single type of bread. Three hours later, with totally full stomachs, we made our way back home.
This Bread / Mikate-Party was a great start of the following Food Festival in Stone Town. Of course the experiences at the Mikate Party set high expectations for the following Food Festival. Distributed throughout the week a selection of hotels had their menus especially adapted. For example, the Kiponda B & B opened their doors for external visitors and offered Swahili spicy coffee, tea and juices.
The Friday night event was another highlight of Stone Town Food Festival. In addition to the typical food such as Zanzibar Pizza and Orojio, which the Forodhani Food Market offers daily, some hotels also had built stalls and offered for some money a further food variety. From Sushi to Falafel everything was available. Once again there was such a huge variety. While eating we could listen to a band from DCMA (Dhow Countries Music Academy) playing Taarab music in the large dome in the center of Forodhani. The band generated a great atmosphere all over the park.
After our meal, we went to the Old Fort. There was an orchestra from Oman playing. This was a very special occasion, all the way from Oman various ministers and a delegation of 300 people arrived at the Zanzibar port this weekend. Accordingly, many people of different cultures were traveling around the Forodhani. The Old Fort too was well filled.
The Mikate Party and Food Festival was not just about providing food itself. When we asked Farid about his motivation for organizing such a festival, he told us that as a historian he was much concerned with the cultural heritage of Zanzibar. “Culture is everything”, and food is an important part of the culture. This is more about generating an exchange and extending a meeting of different cultures. Farid feels that Cultures can be revived and local people can be motivated to bring old knowledge on cultural heritage back into use and share it with others. Especially here on Zanzibar we have the advantage that we do not have to travel far to experience many cultural influences, because Zanzibar has such variety. It is precisely this diversity that should be celebrated.
The place of the bread party and the wider Food Festival were selected deliberately. Forodhani Park is traditionally the most wonderful place where all people, from all backgrounds and heritage meet and enjoy the cooler evening air and freshly made foods, coffees and juices – so the activities there made so much sense. However, the Park Hyatt is a luxury hotel, and whilst part of it is of historical significance (having renovated the former Mambo Msije building), many may have felt inhibited to enter because of this – but by holding the Mikate Party here, it enabled a feeling for everyone that they could join in.
All in all the music, small dance performances of different national groups and the traditional clothes of the many visitors in kanzus and diras, the Food Festival as well as the Mikate Party ensured an incredibly peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. It was not only an incredible culinary experience but also an impressive example of a positive meeting of different generations and cultures. More please!
To find out more about next year’s Stone Town Food Festival, do visit their facebook page and join in for next year!