Zanzibar the Sultan’s beautiful land, with its fantastic beaches ,a paradise like Island just off the Tanzanian coast, an African dream of the 1,001 nights, an island of spice and exotic aromas of Sultan’s palaces ,shining white beaches, and fiery red sunsets.
Zanzibar the word conjures up the exotic, and brings to mind the many explorers and slave traders who placed Zanzibar Island in the history books, stone town is situated in the center of the island, the ancient oriental city of Zanzibar derived its name from its many old stone buildings, charming and mysterious ,they’ve witnessed much of the islands dramatic past, the tangled architecture of coral stone and shale lime serves as a fascinating backdrop to this colorful city, but is strongly influenced by an Arabian way of life. Centuries old houses continue to dominate this ancient and well-preserved East African city that has been given World Heritage status by UNESCO.
Around the Year 1200 AD, the Persians settled here, and five centuries later came the Arabs, who strengthened Islamic influence in this region, in 1840 the Ottoman Sultan Ziyad Sayed transferred his residence to Zanzibar that had become the center of the slave, trade, once the Portuguese Germans and British ruled here, until in 1964 the independent People’s Republic United with Tanganyika to become Tanzania, artistically carved doors wooden balconies and windows are part of the city’s traditional features, the city’s walls weren’t built to last, but its doors and metalwork have managed to survive the ravages of time, prized carpets are cleaned outdoors. there are numerous labyrinths black markets they fill stone done with a hubbub of a busy shopping center ,hustle and bustle, and the various fish fruit and vegetable stalls are a real feast to the senses, the old town contains elements of African, Arabian ,Indian and European architecture.
in 1873 the Anglican Church of Christ, was built by a band of missionaries in this square that once contained an infamous slave market ,when Bishop steer showed the building plans to the Sultan, the Sultan agreed as long as its construction was kept less high than his house of Wonders, the altar was built where once slaves were whipped, and behind it is the tomb of the brave Bishop who had the courage to pray for the Muslim community, the glass window beyond the baptismal font, commemorates the many British seafarers who lost their lives in their fight against slavery.
Sultan Bagash donated the church bells, it’s difficult to imagine the scene that once took place here when each afternoon 300 or more slaves were brought to the square, the dark dungeons of the nearby slave house have now been relegated to the history books, it was here where the slaves were forced to wait until they were sold, now the square is full of souvenir sellers, they attempt to sell their various arts and crafts to visitors who are more interested in the historic atmosphere of this place, today nothing indicates the cruel and dark chapter of what is now a tranquil square.
The city has many restored buildings, but freshly painted facades are few and far between little has changed here, at seven o’clock in the morning the fish market opens for business, fishermen offer their nights catch on muddy ground close to various wrecked ships, the tide is art ,at high tide they will travel out to sea again. In the north of the old town, is one of the islands most beautiful buildings ,the ismaili dispensarium, it was built by a wealthy Indian businessman, it was originally a hospital with an adjoining pharmacy, today it contains a cultural center, following the bloody defeat of the Sultanate, the islands new socialist government neglected the city’s old buildings for several decades, the institute of foreign languages was once the residence of one of the Sultan’s most prominent dignitaries, since been restored by UNESCO, the High Court is contained within a building complex that combines both Arabian and Portuguese architecture, a large clock in front of the main entrance is particularly noteworthy, a strange location to this station clock, most unusual .
the house of the infamous Tippu tip whose once Zanzibar’s biggest slave trader; has not yet been restored; he was an extremely unpleasant man, who sent his servants into the African bush to catch slaves who were later sold in Zanzibar.
On the edge of the city, are white and isolated beaches, and the turquoise Indian Oceans, on the beaches of Stone town fishing boats, and pleasure boats are moored outside the houses. From the beach promenade, it’s only a few steps to the ancient Arab fort, a fortified complex that was built by the island’s former Arabian rulers. In the middle of the 17th century, Zanzibar that had for many years been occupied by the Portuguese fell under the rule of the Arabian Imam of Oman who had this complex built. In the 19th century the fort was used as a prison, and up until 1890 there were public executions here by sword.
During British rule, ladies played tennis here, hidden from the view of the local Muslims, this building also contains a cultural center. Following the revolution in 1964, the former Sultan’s palace was given another purpose; it is now the People’s Palace. When Sayed the Great founded the Sultanate of Zanzibar in 1832, the trading of clothes, ivory gold carpets and slaves brought in great wealth. Splendid palaces were built and the royal family plus the women of the harem lived here an amazing luxury until the Sultan was eventually banished,
Since 1994 the former palace has been a museum, in which the fascinating history of Zanzibar Sultans is featured. One room tells a princess Salama, the daughter of Sultan Said who fell in love with a German, she subsequently married him and as Emily Rita emigrated to humble, furniture, jewelry, and the large collection of the personal belongings of the Sultan’s family are displayed on three floors.
In 1870 this was the first building on the island to have running water and modern bathrooms, and two years later, each room had an electricity supply, the abundant luxury and the Sultan’s palace was without litter, it’s a truly remarkable place. Today there’s a certain melancholy to be found in the splendid and mysterious world, and the view across the harbor is unchanged.
The peaceful palace garden contains the graves of sultan Sayed and his sons, this final place of rest highlights man’s mortality, nothing remains of the incredible wealth and beauty of those bygone times, they can only be imagined.
Life here has always been vibrant and colorful, the rituals and traditions of the island life have lost none of their power, and now there is a brighter future to imagine and reach for. After all the storms they’ve lived through, Zanzibar can feel fresh wind in their sails.