Hilary Alexander

Bagamoyo is a small town with a history of slavery, colonialism, and a fall from grace as a capital city. It’s on the World Heritage site list, and home of the current Tanzanian President, writes HILARY ALEXANDER

Most of the buildings are time and weather-worn; many abandoned and heavy with their own stories. Some are built by modern developers, but we can overlook those.

Bagamoyo is an important centre for Tanzanian art. Drive through the town and you’ll see artists at work in open workshops, their hand-crafted creations on display.

The village market is a labyrinth of stalls and small container shops that lead down to a fishing harbour. More sights, more smells, more beauty. Narrow streets. Women in bright kangas, men on piki-pikis, children running, laughing. Languid restaurant owners watching the world pass by. It’s a delightful little place that’s already calling me back.

Ornate door at Firefly in Tanzania

When I do return, it’ll be to Firefly, Mikadi’s big sister, where light leads you to where you want to go and your imagination does the rest. Firefly has captured my heart.

Imagine a building with ornate doors and half-meter thick walls. Imagine shutters set into walls of rough-hewn concrete, which Mother Nature has damaged over time. Imagine a narrow road on one side to the front, footpaths to the side and land leading to the beach.

A sense of space prevails

Then step inside, through that ornate front door. Let your eyes adjust to the cool darkness, look around you, up the walls, to the ceiling with exposed beams. Follow the stone steps up to the first floor, your hand touching the bannister. Feel the cool concrete meet the warm air coming through the windows.

Take a seat at one of the windows, looking out over a giant palm towards the fisherman’s harbour. Feel the breeze on your face, and sip the water you have in your hand. Take a moment. Firefly is magical.

Imagine a place with just 10 rooms, where the breeze caresses muslin drapes, and lanterns cast a soft glow on whitewashed walls and restored wooden beams. Beautifully designed light fittings and artistic flooring are the only decoration.

The pool at Firefly

Pause in the corner of the reading room upstairs, looking over the courtyard where lights shimmer in the pool. Then descend the cool steps into the courtyard to order a chilled bottle of wine and join your friends for dinner on couches under the stars. The internal courtyard living walls soften the concrete and absorb the sound of laughter and birdsong.

This is what we held in our minds as we drove back to Dar for a final night before saying goodbye for another year.  Thank you for the memories, Mikadi. We’ll be back soon. Promise.