Also known by the name of Mji Mkongwe, which means ‘old town’ in Swahili, the Stone Town is the postcard of the city of Zanzibar, Tanzania. Located on a promontory that sticks out from the western side of Unguja Island into the Indian Ocean, the city is a postcard of eclectic architecture (mostly dating back to the 19th century), harmonising European, Swahili, Indian and Arab elements. Being one of the main historical and artistic monuments in East Africa, it is also the country’s emblematic trade town.
Over centuries, the Stone Town of Zanzibar has managed to preserve its townscape and urban fabric almost intact, and its buildings reflect the history of the city artistically combining all the influences above-mentioned. Built primarily in coralline ragstone and mangrove wood laid in a thick lime mortar, plastered and then lime-washed, the two-storey buildings have long, narrow rooms and are disposed around an open courtyard. A long, narrow corridor leads you to the courtyard, and meticulously carved double Zanzibar-style doors enhance the overall design and give you a hint of what to expect of the interior – lavish and colourful.
The simple, ground floor houses together with the narrow façade Indian shops that are everywhere along bazaar streets, built around a commercial space known as ‘duka’.
In 2000, the town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gathering thousands of visitors every year. Actually, a significant part of its economy relies mainly on tourism-related activities.
The hallmark of the Stone Town are, of course, as expected of any oriental city, are the mosques, bazaars, tiny shops crowded by people, and a luring maze of narrow streets and pathways.
A unique combination of architectural styles, cultural influences and a riot of colours, the Stown Town is a must visit for those of you who want to learn more about East African traditions and lifestyle.