Addicted to Durian – I Found the Cure in Zanzibar!

By Mark Wiens 11 Comments

If you didn’t already know, I happen to be a raging addict of the “king of fruits,” and I don’t ever plan on going to rehab.

To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it for a couple of weeks. I was traveling around Egypt and East Africa, it had been weeks since leaving SE Asia, and my mind had been thinking in terms of other delicacies like pilau and biryani.

I arrived to the island of Zanzibar, eager to begin a short holiday. After checking out a number of guest houses we decided to check into the Karibu Inn (a lovely guest house in Stone Town). After greeting the receptionist, my eyes were directed to a calendar behind the reception counter. The calendar was completely ordinary, except that it was a freebie from the Zanzibar Export Authority and YES, there were pictures. There it was, in the top right corner of the calendar, a halo of glory resting on a golden pillow…a Durian.

I was overjoyed and couldn’t contain myself. I started questioning the receptionist like I was with the CIA, where can I find that? What is the price? Are they easy to find?

Durian in Zanzibar
Durian in Zanzibar

Our receptionist, Mohammad, was ecstatic that I showed such interest in such a delicacy. “Yes, there are durian’s here in Zanzibar…at the market.” Mohammed offered to bring me a couple durian’s from the market the next morning to which I gladly accepted. I could already feel that Durian bond between us, a bond I believe is one of the strongest.  In the morning I feasted on 2 durian’s. I hadn’t been so satisfied since the legendary durian buffet in Kuala Lumpur (which by the way is worth an annual migration).

For the rest of my time in Zanzibar, I was wearing my Durian Goggles – keeping an acute lookout.

The next day we were, en-route to the East Coast of Zanzibar when I noticed a pile of spiky fruit sitting on a table at a village on the edge of the forest. I screamed for the van to pull over and proceeded to chat with the men hanging out around the table of glory. They chuckled as I started speaking to them in Swahili and they could tell, I was interested in one thing only: their fruit.

zanzibar-durian
Slicing Durian in Zanzibar

I picked a durian and the vendor sliced it up; I began to feed myself.  It was splendid, the flavor was exquisite. It’s a fruit that can’t be forgotten, a fruit that could foster migrations, and a fruit that I wouldn’t hesitate to spend the rest of my bank account on.

The men were entertained and laughed aloud as I licked every durian seed clean until the entire fruit had diminished before me.

durian-in-zanzibar

The Zanzibari durian’s have similar flavor to the South East Asian durian, but they are not nearly as meaty, hearty, or large. Just like any other durian in this world, Zanzibari durian’s are worth going out of your way and reversing your itinerary for.

zanzibar-durian-store

I’m quite certain that throughout the history of Zanzibar there has never been a parallel “white man,” so enthusiastic about eating durian on the island.

That evening I enjoyed another durian outside the Karibu Inn, sharing this time with a bank guard. We sat there eating, he had a chunk of durian in one hand, a sawed off shotgun in the other, and we both had smiles upon our faces.

– Migration Mark

11 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

  • Shero behr

    6 years ago

    What is the Swahili name for Durian? Believe it or not am Kenyan but i have no idea because it is not a common fruit.

    • Kristina Budiati

      3 years ago

      Durian is Indonesia/Malay word that mean ‘something with thorn/thorny’. Like others Malay/Indonesian words Durian melted with Kiswahili. Others Indonesian words that also use in Swahili fx: DUNIA, BAHARI, MENARA, MEJA (Swahili Meza), BENDERA etc etc…

  • edeko

    11 years ago

    Durian with no doubt is the king…the taste? for the first taste, you will probably not like it. there is even high possiblity that you will hate the smell….but push yourself for the second time let’s say after few weeks…then damn! here you are and the king together:)
    i tell you how it is to me: there is a milk cream with honey inside…for a good start , try durian types d2 or d24 ! this is the taste which will blow your mind…

  • Jen

    12 years ago

    Hi!
    Thanks for sharing this!…
    This is such a great surprise, as i might travel to Kenya/Tanzania in a couple of month. I wonder, WHEN is the season? Do you know when it starts, and maybe how long it lasts?… I’m in Thailand, and, I just started eating durian, and yes, I LOVE IT…!

  • Murtaza Bandali

    12 years ago

    Durian they call it in Malaysia, Phillipines and Thailand. But
    the Zanzibaris call it slightly differently in Kiswahili which is
    Doriani. Yes, you are right Mark, Doriani is a fruit which some
    people say ‘it smells like hell but tastes like heaven.” A Zanzibari
    myself, I just love it.
    Murtaza Bandali

    • Murtaza Bandali

      12 years ago

      Hey, Mark. Its nice to know that its not just the Zanzibaris and those in Far Eastern countries who have a crave for this heavenly fruit, Durian or Doriani but the ‘wazungus’ as well. Since I emigrated to England 35 years ago, I am not sure about the extent of the availability of this fruit. But I am told that you will still find plenty of it during its season which I believe is in June and July when you can relish and enjoy this exotic fruit. I understand that they even make Durian icecream in the Far East. Yummy !
      Murtaza

  • darrick

    12 years ago

    hi there!! this is amazing report…i appreciate you taking time to do this…..i ve been in asia 5 years and mostly <philippines eating durian DAily….2 or 3 fruits….
    im in kenya now…and due to your report heading to karibu inn in stone town…..how long is the season there??? march and april???
    please email me at [email protected]
    thanks!
    Darrick

  • Grace

    13 years ago

    Durian Goggles!? LOL You sir, are one of a kind! I rarely find anyone outside of SE Asia who likes durian. I know you’ve been to the Philippines and we do love our durian there.

    I really like it when travelers go out of their way to sample local delicacy it just shows a lot of openness and enthusiasm to try something new.

  • Turkey’s For Life

    13 years ago

    I’ve never even seen or heard of a durian before – I bet most of your comments are going to say that. What does it taste like? I’ve got to say it doesn’t look too appetising but I guess it tastes better than it looks.
    Julia

  • Joel Bruner

    13 years ago

    Dude. amazing. they have discovered the cure for sure
    Cure for most ailments haha, comes in the green and spiky package. Yesterdays todays and tomorrows ambrosia at the same time…:)

  • Tijmen

    13 years ago

    I have to say I have never seen or heard about Durian before, but after reading your article i’m vary curious to find out what they taste like. I dont think they sell them over here (Holland).