That Time When… I Got Detained By Zanzibari Police

So guys and gals, it’s story time…

During my birthday trip to Tanzania back in May ’15, I had a brush with Immigration Officers at the Zanzibar Port Terminal. A [former] friend and I were arriving via ferry from Dar es Salaam. We walked into the terminal, were immediately identified at tourists and were motioned to stand in a line.

A woman approached me and asked for my Yellow Fever certificate. I had intentionally not gotten a Yellow Fever shot because:

  1. I hate getting shots
  2. I checked the CDC and U.S Embassy websites and it said it was not required if you were not coming from Yellow Fever affected areas (U.S and UAE being on that list) and
  3. Refer back to #1.

I had read that the port authority may try to force to you to get the shot at the terminal upon arrival if you did not have a certificate. I told the woman I had the shot, but that the Immigration Officer at the airport had kept the certificate. After some back and forth, she let me walk through.

Seaport for Dar es Salaam ferry to Zanzibar

So we get to the Immigration counter and immediately they take our passports and ask us to come inside. Shocked and a bit scared, we asked why and they told us (a bit more forcefully) to come inside the office. We grabbed our bags and obliged, not wanting to cause a scene.

Once inside, the three officers quite amused with us, continually flipped thru our passports and began the interrogation:

“Where did you come from?”

“Dubai? You cabin crew? Work for Emirates?”

“Why do you come to Zanzibar? How long are you here?”

The line of questioning was in line with what most Immigration agents ask, but then it took a left turn…

“You married?”

“Why not? You should be married.”

Getting a bit agitated now at their off-color, misogynist line of questioning, my respect and courtesy was wearing thin, I jokingly respond that “I’m young and don’t want to be married yet especially living in Dubai and the doom of being a second wife.” . They respond with:

“Men are allowed multiple wives. Because when one bleed you have another. We should not have to wait if she has blood or a baby”


“Oh really?”

Then I remember that sometimes you have to choose your battles. And a war with the all male, misogynist, elder, Tanzanian Immigration officers was not going to be one I would be on the podium for. So, I just decided to abruptly change the subject.

“Why are you holding us?”

Stunned that I was so forward, the eldest one responds:

“Well, you are not dressed modestly.”

We both look down at what we were wearing. Each had on shorts, tanks and sandals on. Yep. Head, shoulders, knees and toes. All uncovered. Of fucking course. I had read that Tanzania was a conservative state, where the Muslim women wore their shayla and dressed modestly covering shoulders and  knees. For some odd reason, I thought that didn’t apply to Zanzibar. Well damn.

He asks us if we have long skirts in our luggage. We quickly open the luggage, meanwhile they give us a long lecture about dressing modestly and if we do so we will find husbands. Well they clearly don’t know of Kim Kardashian. She’s had 3 husbands and as naked as a mole rat on every media channel there is. But.. I digress.

Now dressed in our finest maxi skirts, with our denim shorts bulging  underneath, they stamped our passports and let us go.

So if you find yourself traveling to Zanzibar, be sure to cover up when you arrive at Immigration. We didn’t have any issues (with modestly) throughout the trip. I did, however, come back with one less Facebook friend. But that’s another story for another day.

…and that ladies and gents is the time I was detained by the Zanzibari Immigration Officers on arrival.

5.1 Zanzibar- Stone Town (7)
Scene of the crime


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  1. Hi Coco any suggestions for resorts in Zanzibar? I’m looking to travel there this summer. Thanks for any suggestions.

    1. Hi Johnette. I stayed at the Stone Town Cafe which is a local B&B. After a few days, we moved up to the North Coast to Nungwi where we stayed at the Hilton Resort Nungwi. These are the only ones I can attest to personally, but most of the places are very accommodating and service levels are good. Just depends on your budget and whether it’s low/high season.

    1. Ha! She was a spoiled brat I met in Dubai through a social networking group. There’s just some people you can’t travel with. She was definitely one of them! Lesson learned!

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