Matt had organised our hotel and we settled in before heading out for dinner in Forodhani Gardens. The gardens were a short stroll from our hotel, down through the narrow winding alleyways lined with stone buildings. Large, dark wood doors were capped with elaborate carved motifs in squared or semicircular friezes, reflecting Arabic and Indian influences respectively. Many of the doors dated back hundreds of years, and some had large wooden or copper spikes protruding from the panels, designed to stop elephants knocking them down. Not something you usually have to worry about in Australia.
We got to the gardens before sunset. Stone Town is set on a rounded protrusion from the island, and the gardens sat at the furthest point, with high stone walls sitting at their back. Under the acacia trees, walkways criss-crossed the large park set in front of the sea wall perimeter, off which African teenagers took flying leaps into the water.
Sam was laughing at each jump.‘I want to go in.’
‘No Sam, you’ll get your clothes wet and we don’t have any others with us.’
Matt turned to me. ‘You should let him go in.’
I thought about it, but it was a bit dangerous, with the boys landing on top of each other in the water. Sam might also attract some unwanted competitive attention from them if he was the only mzungu. He took some convincing but eventually relented. It was, however, pleasing that he wanted to do it, reflecting another step in his growing confidence of grabbing new experiences.
As Naomi was filming Sam and me, she was approached by a plain-clothed police officer, who showed us his ID and promptly marched her off to a mobile police station at the edge of the park. Sam and I followed to give her moral support. Matt and Morton were unaware we had gone.
At the police station she got a stern lecture about not filming in the park without a permit, and she dutifully acted remorseful and chastened, telling them it was for personal use and she had only been filming for five minutes. Eventually the policeman let her leave with a caution, feeling he had done his duty.
‘Why do you need a permit?’ I asked Naomi.
‘Oh, it’s all about money. Maybe you don’t even need a permit, and he was just trying to scam some money out of me. It might be a per hour thing, that’s why I said I’d only filmed five minutes.’
‘This has happened to you before hasn’t it?’
Naomi, who had spent many months in Africa on an earlier assignment, nodded. ‘Ooh yes, many times.’
Sam was excited. ‘Naomi got arrested!’
‘No Sam, she wasn’t arrested.’
After sunset, we grabbed some pizzas and seafood kebabs from the trestle tables surrounding barbecues in the centre of the park. Locals and tourists shared the space, which had a vibrancy and relaxed feel to it. We sat on the sea wall with our paper plates and watched the world go by.