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Stone Town



Stone Town 

This is an outstanding example of a Swahili commercial town, located on a point extending out into the Indian Ocean from the western side of Unguja island. This sort of town arose along East Africa's coast, expanded under Arab, Indian, and European influences while retaining its indigenous characteristics to produce a culturally distinct urban unit.

The Stone Town of Zanzibar boasts a nearly preserved urban fabric and townscape, as well as many excellent buildings that reflect its unique culture, which has brought together and homogenized various components of African, Arab, Indian, and European cultures over millennia.

The Stone Town's buildings, which are primarily made of coralline ragstone and mangrove timber, placed in a thick lime mortar, then plastered and lime-washed, show a complex fusion of Swahili, Indian, Arab, and European architectural traditions and town design. Exquisitely carved double ‘Zanzibar' doors, some with wide vernadahs, and highly painted interiors differentiate the two-story residences with long narrow rooms arranged around an open courtyard, entered through a narrow corridor. Along with the modest ground floor Swahili dwellings and the thin façade Indian businesses along "bazaar" streets built around a commercial space known as "duka."

The major buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries and include monuments such as the Old Fort, built on the site of an earlier Portuguese church; the house of wonder, a large ceremonial palace built by Sultan Barghash; the Old Dispensary; St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral; Christ Church Anglican Cathedral commemorating the work of David Livingston in abolishing the slave trade and built on the site of the last slave market; the residence of the slave trader Tippu Tip; the Malindi Bamnara Mosque; the Jamat Khan built for the Ismaili sect; the Royal Cemetery; the Hamamni and other Persian baths.

These structures, in combination with the narrow, meandering street plan, enormous houses facing the beachfront, and open areas, form an unusual urban settlement that reflects the long-standing commerce activity between the African and Asian seaboards. The Stone Town, in particular, is notable for being the site where slave-trading was eventually abolished.

The Stone Town of Zanzibar was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

(Source UNESCO)


  • Zanzibar

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