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Mtende Beach and the Coconut-Mamas

Mtende is a small community on the South East of Unguja Island in Zanzibar. Far from the main touristic beaches and activities of Paje and Jambiani, Mtende saved its natural beauty and quietness of the local life. The beach around here is not as long as in its neighboring villages, but spreads its very own charm.

Flanked on one side by a huge coral cliff and on the other side the azure blue Indian Ocean, Mtende Beach is definitely worth a visit. Either you just relax and have a walk with an amazing view during low tide, you have a swim during high tide or enjoy a nice meal at the Usumba Rock Restaurant.

But besides this beautiful environment, you also have the chance to encounter and connect with the local people.

During low tide you will find roundish structures of stones lying on the beach. The women of the village throw stones down the cliff into the sand, collect them and build these structures, called "chau" in Kiswahili. They cover the outer peels of coconuts under these stones and wait for the ocean to soften them. After waiting 3 to 6 months, the women uncover the softened coconut peels from the stones, collect them and start their next step of the working process. Seated on the ground, they use a stick and beat the softened coconut peels to separate the hard wooden parts from the organic fiber. The fiber gets collected on big piles or is carried home in sacks. From the fiber the women twist coconut ropes in their hands through rolling them in their palms. These organic coconut ropes are found all over the island, being used for traditional furniture such as daybeds and chairs, to bind wooden pillars in simple huts together, to hang clothes or weave doormats. In hotels and lodges you will find the rope also used in home-decor purposes. They are an organic alternative to some of our modern life tools, not as long lasting as nylon ropes or steel-wool pot-sponges but for sure sustainable and environment friendly.

The knowledge of this handcraft is taught over generations, mothers introduce it to their daughters. The work is hard and its a long process. The payment is little.

If you are interested to learn more about local life and handcraft please feel free to contact us anytime.

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