Stone Town Tourist Attractions
Stone Town is the cultural heart of Zanzibar and little has changed in the last 200 years. The narrow streets and winding alleyways are lined with grand houses as the original Arab owners vied with each other for the most extravagant.
Over 500 examples of handiwork are reflected in the brass-studded, carved wooden doors. The majority of homes in Stone Town were built in the 19th C when Zanzibar was one of the most important Swahili trading towns in the Indian Ocean. The trading activity between Asia and Africa is evident by the architecture and urban structure of Stone Town.As the world's oldest functioning Swahili city, many of the landmarks in Stone Town are being restored to their original glory. Coral was used in most of the buildings but has easily eroded leaving most of the houses in a poor state of repair.A walk along Creek Road takes visitors to the original Stone Town area and the location of the Central Darajani Market, Beit el-Amani, City Hall and the Anglican Cathedral.While visiting Stone Town, tourists can enjoy 'Spice Tours' which take them on a tour of plantations, sights of historical interest and to some of the ruins. On the tours, tourists can sample many spices, herbs and fruits that are produced on the island and see what they look like growing wild. These include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, vanilla, breadfruit and lemongrass.
Forodhani Gardens are formal gardens and a popular meeting spot for local residents and tourists. Once the location of the port's customs shed, Forodhani Gardens is perfect for an evening stroll and provides a chance to sample some local delicacies. Vendors serve grilled octopus, goat meat, samosas and other snacks.Adjacent to Forodhani Gardens is the Zanzibar Orphanage, previously used an English Club and an Indian School. The next building served as the British Consulate from 1841 to 1874. If the tide is low enough, visitors can pass down the side of the consulate building and on to the beach to view the splendid houses
Mbweni Ruins, located south of Stone Town, are perfect for bird and nature lovers. A 19th C mission station used the site as a settlement for freed slaves. A nature trail passes more than 650 plant species and 150 varieties of palm trees from around the world. The ruins of St Mary's School for Girls, built in the 1870s, is located within a lush garden. The St Mary's School educated the daughters of freed slaves and girls who were released from the slave dhows.Sultan Said Barghash constructed the Maruhubi Palace between 1880 and 1882 to house his harem. In 1889, a large fire destroyed the palace and it fell into ruin. Some of remains include two bathhouses, stone pillars and an overhead aqueduct.Sultan Seyyid Said built Mtoni Palace at his chosen location. As his permanent residence, it had balconies on the exterior, a garden courtyard, a mosque and an observation turret. Today only a few walls remain of this once palatial structure.
The Old Dispensary was built in 1887 by Thaira Thopen, a prominent business man in Zanzibar at the time. Its construction was originally commissioned to commemorate Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee. The foundation stone of the "Tharia Topan Jubilee Hospital" was laid in July 1885, but Sir Thopen died in 1891, causing an interruption in the construction. In 1900, the Old Dispensary was bought by the estate of Nasser Nur Mahomed and divided into apartments, which were used until the revolution in 1964. The decorative carved wooden balconies and four stories stand out as the building is restored to its former glory.During colonial times, the Old Dispensary gained its name because it housed a dispensary on the ground floor, with a pharmacy and resident doctor. Today the Old Dispensary houses boutiques, shops and galleries with work by local artists.
Beit el-Sahel, also known as the People's Palace, was the home of the sultans and their families from the 1880s until the revolution of 1964.In 1994 the Beit el-Sahel became a museum devoted to the sultans of Zanzibar. The main floor features displays from 1828 to 1870 when commercial treaties were signed with the US, Britain, France and the Hanseatic Republics. One of the rooms in Beit el-Sahel is dedicated to the Princess Salme who eloped with a German businessman and later wrote her autobiography.Exhibits on the second floor feature clothing, furniture including the Sultan's huge bed, and other affluent items from the period of 1870 to 1896 when modern amenities were introduced such as electricity. On the grounds of Beit el-Sahel is the tomb of Sultan Seyyid Said and his two sons, Kaled and Barghash.
House of Wonders
Beit el-Ajaib is Zanzibar's tallest building, standing four stories high. Built in 1883 for Sultan Barghash, Beit el-Ajaib was the first building on the island to have electricity this gave it the name 'House of Wonders'.In 1896 the British navy bombarded Beit el-Ajaib in an effort to force Sultan Barghash to abdicate. Later the building housed the headquarters of the Tanzania political party CCM.Two Portugese cannons, from the 16th C, guard the enormous carved doors while inside Beit el-Ajaib the marble-floored rooms house the Museum of History and Culture. Exhibits include dhow culture of the Indian Ocean, the struggle for independence, Swahili civilization and displays on the history of the Swahili Coast.
The Darajani Market opened in 1904 and still maintains the bustling and colorful atmosphere. The market is a perfect spot to watch life in Zanzibar as it has been for so many years. Residents buy and sell inside the market with the most active time between 9 and 11 a.m.. The gabled-roof structure houses a fruit, vegetable and meat market while other goods such as jewelry, fabric and spices are sold in shops on surrounding streets. An antique fair runs twice each week.Daranjani Market is located near the Anglican Cathedral courtyard, once home to the Great Slave Market that closed in 1873.
Hamamni Persian Baths
Sultan Barghash built the Hamamni Persian Baths in 1888 to be used as public baths. A special team brought in from Persia built the Hamamni Baths. Hamamni means, "place of the baths" and is now the name of the neighborhood where the baths are located. Although they are no longer functioning the baths have still retained their original grandeur. The front rooms were used for changing, paying dues and socializing. A long hall leads to the warm room that was heated by underground hot-water aqueducts. The other rooms of the Hamamni Baths included hot and cold baths, toilets and private shaving areas.
The Old Fort is also known as Arab Fort or Ngome Kongwe and is located near Beit el-Ajaib. Built as a fortified structure in 1560, the Old Fort is the oldest structure in Stone Town. Omani Arabs constructed the Old Fort to defend against attacks by the Portugese. The remains of an old Portugese church can be seen within the internal walls.During the 19th C, it was used as a prison and later as a depot for the railway. Today a partially renovated portion houses the Zanzibar Cultural Center with an open-air theatre and art gallery. Traditional dance and music are performed here several times each week.
Peace Memorial Museum
Beit el-Amani is housed in two buildings that are within one block of each other. Just after World War I the Peace Memorial Museum served as a memorial for those lost in that conflict. Now it serves as a museum with many interesting artifacts including traditional crafts and household items from residents of Zanzibar. Exhibits also include items from the sultans, slave traders, European explorers and missionaries. Displays in the domed main building feature David Livingstone's medical chest, information about the harvesting of cloves and the story of the battleship, the Konigsberg, which sunk during World War I.
The Anglican Cathedral, built in 1887, is located on the site of the old slave market. It was built to commemorate the end of the slave trade. The high altar of the cathedral was constructed on the location of the whipping post.The stained-glass windows in the Anglican Cathedral are dedicated to David Livingstone who played a major role in the abolition of the slave trade. The wooden crucifix was carved from the tree under which Livingstone was buried in Chitambo.Take a trip up the stairs of the tower for a tremendous view of Stone Town.
Livingstone's House was built in 1860 for Sultan Majid. It became a base for missionaries and explorers before they headed to the mainland. It is remembered as the place where David Livingstone stayed in 1866 before his last expedition. Since this time, the Livingstone House has served as a laboratory researching clove production, a resting place for invalids and was used for religious meetings by the Ithnaasheri Khoja Community. Currently it is the home of the Zanzibar Tourist Board.The living quarters are not open to tourists.
St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral
St. Joseph's Cathedral was designed by the same architect who designed the Notre Dame Basilica at Marseilles, France. French missionaries built St Joseph's between 1893 and 1898. A summary of the mission's history is posted inside the entrance. The twin spires of St Joseph can be seen from any elevated point in town and it is one of the first sights that travelers see when the ferry arrives in Zanzibar.The cathedral is still well used and mass is said regularly.