Places to Visit | Stone Town Cultural Centre

Stone Town

The Old Dispensary (now known as the Stone Town Cultural Centre) is a grand four story building with a set of decorative balconies. It served as a dispensary during colonial times but fell into disrepair in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It is one of the Stone Town buildings that has been successfully restored, in this case with funding from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. It can be found on Zanzibar’s seafront on Mizingani road.

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 with castellated battlements, and was built in the late 1890’s for members of the Sultan’s family. Originally called the Sultan’s Palace, in 1911 it became the official residence of the Sultan of Zanzibar, but following the revolution in 1964, it was renamed the Peoples’ Palace. 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. topped by castellated battlements. The fort is open to visitors and now contains various shops and an open air theatre.

There are lots of other interesting places to visit in Stone Town, so exploration is the order of the day!