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Destination Details

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Stone Town in Zanzibar is the old part of Zanzibar City, the island's capital.

Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture, with a unique mixture of African, Moorish, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For this reason, the town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

The heart of Stone Town mostly consists of a maze of narrow alleys sided by houses, shops, markets and mosques. The seafront has wider streets and larger, more regularly-placed buildings. Most of the houses that can be seen today were built in the 19th century when Zanzibar was one of the most important trading centres in the Indian Ocean region.

The market is a great place to visit even if you don't want to buy anything. It is a vibrant place where everything under the sun is bought and sold. People bring their produce here from all over the island, and other people come to buy things they can't get in their own villages. Of special interest is the huge selection of brightly coloured khangas (worn by the local women) and the auctions that are held regularly.

Livingstone's House was built around 1860 for Sultan Majid, and was used by many of the missionaries and explorers as a starting point. Most notably, Dr David Livingstone lived here before commencing his last journey to the mainland interior.

The Peace Memorial Museum is an interesting look at Zanzibar's history. It has sections on archaeology, early trade, slavery, palaces, mosques, sultans, explorers (includes Dr Livingstone's medical chest), missionaries, colonial administrators, traditional crafts and household items, stamps, coins, fishing, and clove cultivation.

The Palace Museum is a large white building built in the late 1890's for members of the Sultan's family. In 1994, the palace was turned into a museum dedicated to the history of Zanzibar's Sultans which necessitated a third change of name to the Palace Museum. For the first time, visitors can see much of the Sultans' furniture and other possessions that survived the revolution.

The House of Wonders is a very large square-shaped building, with several stories, surrounded by tiers of pillars and balconies, and topped by a large clock tower. It was built in 1883 as a ceremonial palace for Sultan Barghash and was the first in Zanzibar to have electric light and an electric lift. Not surprisingly, when it was built, the local people called it Beit el Ajaib, meaning the House of Wonders. Today, it is still one of the largest buildings in Zanzibar, and there are plans to open it as the National Museum.

The Arab Fort is situated next to the House of Wonders and was built between 1698 and 1701 by the Busaidi group of Omani Arabs. It is a large building with high, dark brown walls.

 

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