Synopsis: Visitors often travel to Tanzania for Serengeti safaris—and there is some of that safari spirit in this episode of Parts Unknown. But first, in Zanzibar, Bourdain finds a confluence of world cultures—Arab, Indian, and European influences that have made their imprint on the semi-autonomous island. Then he travels to the Ngorongoro Crater on the eastern edge of the Serengeti. There he sees how the Masai interact with the lion kingdom and how they struggle to preserve their relationship to the land despite mounting pressures from tourism and the outside world.

Zanzibar, the world’s crossroads

“Say you’re going to Zanzibar and people will tell you about the seafood. It’s pretty impressive. In Stone Town’s Forodhani Gardens, every night vendors set up an insane variety of every iteration of seafood snack.”

  • “I went looking for the dream of Africa. I woke up in Tanzania.”
  • “The narrow streets and neatly dressed schoolchildren of Zanzibar’s Stone Town make it feel like a very different Africa than I’ve ever known. It’s tight, small. The architecture speaks of many layers—the hierarchy long gone but still evident. The famous Zanzibari doors, for instance. Meticulously carved of mahogany and teak. The patterns reveal details of the original inhabitants’ ethnicity and professions. Brass spikes evoke similar doors in India. The lotus flower, a historically Egyptian symbol, is meant to promote fertility. And chains, a reminder that this once was a central hub of the slave trade.”
  • “What Zanzibar is today is definitely and overwhelmingly Muslim: 99 percent of the population. And you see a strong influence everywhere you look. The children in hijab, coming from the madrassa. The streets are neat, and private homes—even of the very poor—are maintained with great pride. The call to prayer, five times a day.”
  • [On the beach in the Jambiani fishing village]Whatever your feelings on revolutions, it is probably worth remembering they start in places like this, people talking. And when they are won, they are often won by the people who sat at the feet of the original planners.”

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Postcards from planes

[At his luxury accommodations in the Ngorongoro Crater] “I know what you’re thinking already. You’re not going to do what I think you’re going to do, are you? You’re not going to go out there and shoot some beautiful animal in the brain. No. Answer? No. What kind of sick [expletive] wants to shoot an elephant?”

  • “The 250-mile flight from Zanzibar across the water to the town of Arusha takes an hour and a half. But culturally, you might as well be flying from Texas to the Philippines.”
  • “We reach the eastern edge of the Serengeti, where it’s a steep climb to the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater, once a massive volcano that somewhere around 2.5 million years ago collapsed in on itself, creating this caldera, a true lost world: inside the crater an entire ecosystem within an ecosystem. Wildlife pretty much stayed put.”
  • “It’s nice—very, very nice—if you find yourself here. A hot bubble bath awaits after a long day in the bush. Perhaps a dry sherry from a cut-glass decanter. The next morning one rises to breakfast in one’s chambers on the balcony perhaps. Silver service, hot coffee, freshly baked croissant.”
  • “It’s nuts driving into the Serengeti. After a short while you actually get used to the Jungle Book scene playing out in front of your car. … It’s interesting to see the giraffe and wildebeests, zebra. They all seem to hang out with each together. No conflict at all.”
  • “Zebras and more zebras—so many you almost get bored seeing a herd of them. Giraffes looking only slightly irritated to be interrupted, and ever more massive herds—stadium-sized crowds—of wildebeests. A Phish concert of these unkempt-looking things every few hundred yards. All that’s missing is a hacky sack.”
  • “They are among the last great warrior tribes on Earth. Seminomadic, they believe that all the world’s cattle are a gift of the gods to them, the Masai people. They move with their animals across the Tanzanian plains, setting up homes where they find the best grazing.”
  • “The Masai have always defined themselves and their identities by their enemy, a tribe of proud warriors. What happens when there’s no one and nothing to fight?”

“Kilimanjaro, into whose white peak Hemingway’s gangrenous hero saw himself disappear as he slipped into death. From there we head into the Serengeti.”

  • “The Masai have been migrating with the seasons since they came to this part of Africa some time in the 15th century, long, long before the Serengeti become a national park. And here we run into the kind of existential conflict we’ll be seeing more and more of as the world decides what they value most: unspoiled expanses of nature populated still with magnificent, wild, but aggressively protected animals or the indigenous people.”
  • “It’s beautiful, this country, this part of Africa. Geographically huge but not really, as the world and what we need to live in it shrinks every day. Who gets to live here? Who or what do we want to see is, for better or worse, going to determine that. Nearly $1.5 billion spent here every year by people who come wanting to look mostly at beautiful animals. That is an amount it is hard to argue with … and impossible to outrun.”
  • “The Masai traditionally kill their goats by suffocation, for very good reason it turns out. They keep the blood, which is a vital component for the Masai diet, intact and abundant in the chest cavity.”

Tony Bourdain, U.S. cultural ambassador

“I try and be a good guest. I eat what my host put in front of me. I try to take responsibility if something dies for my dinner. So when the chief asked if I care to do the honors and tells me how it has to be done, I’m not happy. In fact, as I close off its air passages, I’m struggling to not throw up on myself.”

  • “What do hippo penises look like? Did a hippo ever emerge from the water with, like, a … a hippo hard-on?”
  • [At his luxury accommodations in the Ngorongoro Crater] “Idyllic natural setting and good plumbing—it’s pretty much paradise.”
  • “Nature, as they say, is a cruel mistress. It takes care of its own without mercy. The evidence of this cool math called survival is everywhere. Start limping, first come the hyenas. By the time they’ve finished ripping out your soft parts, treating your femur like a chew toy, the vultures and the marabou storks—lovingly called the “undertaker birds”—have been waiting for their turn. I don’t know about you, but whenever I have cause to reflect on a pack of hyenas tunneling into an ass and ripping out the guts, I think, You know what? I could really go for some pesto right now.”
  • “Over thankfully cold beers, I learn who is really the most dangerous animal here. Yeah, that’s right, Mr. Lovable Funny Hippo, always in a tutu in the cartoon: a vicious, unpredictable, and apparently incredibly fast-moving killer. … Just get between them and their mud hole and they’ll be all over you like Justin Bieber’s bodyguards. It can get ugly.”
  • “Even on the Serengeti, it ain’t a barbecue if there ain’t some kind of beer.”