By Charles Mgbolu
The islands that make up the Zanzibar archipelago in East Africa are a delight for eyes and attracting tourists.
Captivating aerial shots show the deep blue Indian Ocean wrapped cleanly around rocky outcrops and scenic beaches with bent coconut trees that wave in the wind, beckoning intending visitors in.
However, Zanzibar has been trending on social media for a completely different reason.
The government has begun enforcing a ban on men braiding their hair, with defaulters facing a fine of more than $400 (£306), six months imprisonment, or both.
The law, which had been in existence since 2015, apparently had not been strictly enforced.
The Executive Secretary of the Council of Arts, Film, and Culture in Zanzibar, Dr. Omar Adam, told local media the action was aimed at protecting Zanzibar’s tradition and culture.
‘’It is your choice to either pay the fine or buy a razor to shave," Omar told local media.
"We find it dangerous for our future generations. This is one form of immorality in Zanzibar and a culture that is adopted from outside Zanzibar," Omar added.
''Very oppressive to Zanzibari boys and men! Controlling people’s hairstyles?’’ wrote a twitter user @slevyDC.
‘’African countries are standing up to their ideals and against westernisation,’’ countered @GlamParte on Twitter.
Perhaps the greater worry came from foreigners, as Zanzibar is a top tourist destination in Africa.
Zanzibar tour operator JM says intending tourists have been sending in Direct Messages (DMs) seeking clarification if the new rules apply to foreigners.
‘’The fine is not really their worry. Rather, their fear is that they could be arrested, and that’s not what you have in mind when you travel for holidays,'' he tells TRT Afrika.
The uncertainty on its applicability to foreigners further fueled a lot of disinformation on social media, which eventually prompted the Minister of Information, Youth, Culture, and Sports, Tabia Maulid Mwita, to address local media.
She clarified that the ban mainly focuses on Zanzibari youth, and the nation recognises diplomatic issues and the cultures of other people.
'’We cannot prohibit people from outside Zanzibar from embracing their own culture,’’ she stressed.