They says that « In order to know a city, you first have to learn how to get lost into it ». Stone Town, in the heart of Zanzibar city, was probably built to support that proverb.
«Zanj el Barr », literally ‘the coastline of black men’, the heart of the Swahili civilization is the fruit of multiple influences that have been mixed over the centuries. Zanzibar has always stood at the cross-roads of civilizations, attracting travelers, merchants, sailors and explorers from all over the world. Today, Stone Town is surely the part of the island that attracts and fascinates the most: a unique architecture, colorful and fragrant markets, narrow streets dotted with surprises and a welcoming and mixed population. The perfect combination for a Today-project in Stone Town.
« The world is very big and full of magnificent places which it would take more than a thousand lives to visit – Escape – Find better a little further – Zanzibar is calling »
It is after reading these few lines from Arthur Rimbaud’s correspondence that Yann Macherez decided to dive into the secrets of this mythical town. Growing himself on an island, Reunion Island, Yann was quite intrigued to see what defines their identity - as islanders - and how it evolves in this fast moving society.

When he wandered into Stone’s town maze, he felt immediately Home. A known fragrance but a unique visual!
Behind the typical postcard, he discover a hidden world that vibrates on a gentle multicultural frequency, 24 hours of a genuine adventure in the deep roots of this Indian Ocean’s jewel.

08:47 AM

It was on a summer morning that I started exploring this folkish city, in and among the heavy air which seemed to flatten between the stone walls. 

Walking through these arteries is comparable to being wrapped in a muffled and melancholic murmur. 

Adea, resting under the porch of her house, explaining the etymology of her name to me: (A kind gift from God).

09:11 AM

Jaws’ Corner. A place where the strong coffee welcomes the locals. 

They gather here to sip on the warming brew and discuss politics among other things. 

I sit on a stone bench in the shade of the building (Baraza), and chat with my neighbour, while drinking coffee in a small communal cup that is passed from hand to hand.

Two young boys come to us and start to shake the hands of all the men, “a simple sign of respect”, says my new companion. 

10:28 AM

Taking the first alley on my left, I find myself on a beautiful little corner with colourful Indian garlands attached to balconies as ornaments. 

Each labyrinthine nook of Stone Town - atypical, tortuous and striking - offers a new facet of the city. Some women prepare (Chapati), a type of flatbread.

A father and son play with their pet (Galago) while an old man pulls a food cart, making his way to the market. 

11:41 AM

Each time I look at this photo, I feel the sincerity of its silence. 

I need to listen to the sound to be sure that they were not floating like ghosts, meandering in Stone Town’s alleys. 

Strange… Beautiful.

12:12 AM

As I enter the fish market, I attempt to infiltrate the pandemonium of the crowd: a freshly caught tiger shark weighing more than 300kg was being slaughtered. 

A truly oneiric mixture of admiration and sadness fastened around my conscience. I often dreamt of meeting this god of the ocean. I never imagined such a dramatic first encounter.

This photo genuinely captured my emotions. 

01:54 PM

As I walk past a beautiful red door, I hear loud shouts coming from behind it.

I squeeze my head through and see a dozen kids, cramped in front of football video games. 

The owner of this place rents gaming consoles to them, during their lunchtime. 

“Most of the kids arrive late for school”, he confesses with a smile. 

02:18 PM

The scent of cinnamon and clove, emanating from the spice stalls, add a note of lightness to this dense atmosphere. 

When I closed my eyes, I could feel the poetic spaces from my childhood home of Reunion Island. Even though these two places were (visually) poles apart. 

The light is quite harsh here and the sky is getting heavier. Soon, the rain will come.

03:35 PM

Stone Town is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. 

It retains its urban web and townscape intact, and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture which has brought together and homogenised disparate elements of African, Arab, Indian, and European cultures over more than a millennium. 

UNESCO, Stone Town Heritage Society, and locals try to keep the intangible and tangible cultural heritage of Stone Town intact. 

04:24 PM

In Reunion Island, I could have called him a (Gramoun). An old man, quietly sitting, and watching life go by. 

I could not help but try to reach him: some souls, like his, swallow and attract another’s solitude like no other. 

Even if I don’t speak Swahili, we managed to spend some time together, acquainting ourselves. He is one of my most vivid memories of Stone Town. 

05:56 PM

The Darajani Market in Stone Town, also known as Estella Market, is Stone Town’s largest covered market. Most of the market is housed in a red-roofed building, constructed in 1904, which spills out and lines the streets and surrounding alleys. 

Zanzibaris buy and sell vegetables, meat, seafood, spices and fabrics in separate sections under a gable-roofed structure draping over the side streets. 

Darajani Market is a perfect spot to capture the life in Zanzibar unfold, just as it has for so many years. The bustle of local life. 

06:29 PM

At dusk, before the Forodhani Gardens drew all the attention, the main attraction took place on the shore of the Indian Ocean. 

The crazy Stone Town’s youth, meet for a diving contest: as most of them spin and rotate to raise the biggest clamour, my focus falls on this weird superhero. 

Desperately trying to fly with each attempt.

07:19 PM

Have you heard about Cartier Bresson’s decisive moment concept? 

“Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” 

When I look at this photo, I can’t help but think about it. This is the essence of photography to me. This is what I pursue as a photographer. 

08:24 PM

The halfway point of my journey. It is at this moment when the tiredness starts to tug at my sleeves. Things become blurry and hazy. Like this man walking past. 

It’s important to take a break, to regenerate myself. To just watch life pass by. Like this scooter’s trail light. 

09:42 PM

I spent almost an hour with Abdul who used to live in Cape Town. He had family in Stone Town and decided to move back here and open his restaurant 9 years ago. 

In Stone Town, the time seems slower, but interactions move faster away from arbitrariness and deeper into the heart of things.

10:23 PM

Throughout the different cities in which I shoot for this project, dinner time always intrigues me, the universal heart harbours the same intentions but are expressed differently from person to person. 

In Stone Town, locals and tourists join to sit on the various concrete seats of the Forhodani Garden Market with their families and friends, enjoying local food and mild air after the intense tropical heat of the day. 

In 2009, It was rehabilitated by Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an institution created by Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini. 

“Unfortunately, the greenery we used to play on has reduced while the inner roads increased. Some of the trees have been chopped down as well. So those who have the old photos, have been blessed.” said one of the vendors.

11:41 PM

A vendor is resting on a small plastic chair, following the market’s commotion. Only a light buzz breaks the quietness of the moment. 

12:36 PM

At the end of the alley, a strange noise resonates.

I get closer and squeeze my head through the window from where the noise emanates: a group of four are busy sewing dresses and suits. 

“We like to work at night, as the air is cooler in our workshop” said the owner. “But we need to deliver some clothes for a wedding that happens tomorrow. This is why we are working that late.” 

1:12 AM

I can’t even remember how many games I watched throughout this day; Bao, Keram, dominos, dices, checkers, chess. Board Games are the local’s favourite pastime. 

Bao and keram, like their western equivalents chess and billiards, have very different characters. While bao is traditionally a daytime game, played by elderly, dignified men, keram is popularly played at night in bars, often in the midst of a noisy and tipsy crowd. 

02:18 AM

In the labyrinth of alleys, some light bulbs connected to barbed-wire serves as a light path. The tickling breeze throws shivers down my spine. 

By herself, this young woman was talking passionately... To no one. 

More shivers down my spine. 

03:44 AM

I wander throughout the night. Stone Town is now asleep and stray cats are my only companions. 

I savour these moments, my most quietist hour. I always experience at least one of these moments. Photography’s nuances. A moment to reflect on what happened and focus on what is still to be done. 

The body is heavy, the mind uplifted. 

04:56 AM

Darkness gradually gives way to twilight.

With the Fajr prayer calling, Stone Town slowly wakes. 

In Zanzibar, over 97% of the population is Muslim. The locals practice Sunni Islam and their lives are largely influenced by their religion. 

05:53 AM

Few scooters grazed me, all converging in the same direction.

I’ve sharpened my intuition since the beginning of the day and have learned to follow the signs of life. I decide to follow their lead. 

The line of bikes looks like a bloodstream coming out of the main artery in the heart of the city. By following them, intrigued and tired, I don’t realise that I’m slowly departing Stone Town. 

06:24 AM

Suddenly, the ocean appears. The delicate light of the rising sun floods the little harbour below. Malindi Market, here you are!
This young man contemplates the scene: a fishing boat is coming back from its nocturnal excursion, carefully followed by a group of noisy gulls.
I feel as if I’ve been here before... No longer tired, my torso rises to the deep authenticity of the moment.

07:18 AM

I could linger here for hours, watching those fishermen gathering with the clamour of selling their catch. 

This particular man was busy tenderising the octopus’s meat, smashing the mollusc on the rocks. 

The Octopus is one of Stone Town’s delicacies. 

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