Stone Town Zanzibar - The Only Functioning Ancient Town In Sub-Saharan Africa

Stone Town Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s heyday commenced in 1832, when Sultan Sayyid moved the capital of his Omani sultanate to the region. What was once a quiet fishermen's village soon became a flourishing town with Arab townhouses and numerous extravagant palaces being erected on the West coast. The Sultan donated plots of land to affluent Omani families who cultivated spice plantations.

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Subsequent Sultans continued to develop the islands. Sultan Barghash was particularly extravagant and built the most modern house in Africa – equipped with electricity and even an electric lift. Today, it is known as the House of Wonders. Most buildings in Stone Town, the historic heart of Zanzibar Town, were erected in the 19th Century.

Countless narrow, winding alleyways lead through the city, passing old Palazzi, the grand Swahili doors and over 400 mosques. It smells of tea and Zanzibari sweets. The bustling bazaars and little shops (“duka”) sell anything that can be sold. Children play in the alleys and Zanzibari Taarab music fills the air. Most streets in Stone Town are too narrow for cars to enter and explorers are advised to walk around.

Comprising Arabic, African, Indian, and European influences, Stone Town is a busy, vibrant place and the cultural heart of Zanzibar, Tanzania. UNESCO has declared Stone Town Zanzibar a World Heritage site, which emphasizes its historic and international significance.

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