The Spice of Life
The Spice of Life
Photographer Aline Coquelle captures the mesmerising allure of Zanzibar in a new book that serves as a love letter to this vibrant African archipelago By Kissa Castañeda. Photography
Aline Coquelle
Local Maasai employees at Upendo Zanzibar wearing traditional red clothing They say it’s all in the name, and that rings true with Zanzibar. Merely uttering the word evokes mystery and wonder—it sounds like an exotic experience waiting to be savoured. The archipelago in the Indian Ocean off Africa’s Swahili coast has always held a certain mystique. In 1872, British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton described his first glimpse of its islands: “Earth, sea, and sky, all seems wrapped in a soft and sensuous repose. The sea of purest sapphire, which had not parted with its blue rays to the atmosphere ... under a blaze of sunshine which touched every object with a dull burnish of gold”.

A semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, Zanzibar continues to lure modern explorers with a promise of an adventure like no other. One of these adventurers is nomadic Parisian photographer Aline Coquelle, who first arrived on its shores two decades ago. “What drew me to Zanzibar was the unknown,” says Coquelle, who calls the place “a dream before being an island”. Her first visit was thanks to an Italian friend whose father, a famous scuba diver, lived in Zanzibar and invited her to Unguja, the main island. “It was the perfect introduction to the mystery that is East Africa, which I had been wanting to discover since I read Out of Africa,” she says.

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May 2020