The island of Unguja is the largest and most famous of the Zanzibar archipelago and the one most frequented by tourists. A popular destination even after a safari in mainland Tanzania to spend a few relaxing days in characteristic lodges and take advantage of the beautiful beaches that the Indian Ocean offers.
Among the most popular excursions is the tour of Stone Town, the capital. A very special city, full of winding lanes and ancient buildings that recall the past times and the sultanate that ruled before 1964, the year in which the island joined Tanganyika forming the United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar, precisely on 26th April.
1964 was the year of the famous uprising that led to the overthrow of Sultan Jamshid Bin Abdullah. The clashes lasted a few hours and resulted from a spontaneous popular uprising by the African population. Nobody expected it, but it led to the political changes I mentioned earlier.
On the waterfront of Mizingani Road there is one of the most iconic buildings in the city, the largest architectural structure on the island, the House of Wonders or Beit El Ajaib. This building has several uniqueness: it seems to have been the first to be equipped with electric light and to have an elevator, just to name a few. The portal also had no equal and the Stone Town portals are famous for their beauty and refinement of inlays.
Today it houses a museum that collects information on dhows, the typical boats, coastal environments and Swahili culture.
It was the sultan’s residence, at least until 1964, and its construction had been completed in 1883. It is part, like the city of Stone Town, of the UNESCO protected sites and is perhaps the greatest attraction that tourists from all over of the world wish to visit.
They wanted. Yes, unfortunately on Christmas day of last year, this spectacular building, which had to be restored with funds arriving from the Government of Oman, collapsed, creating an inestimable damage to cultural heritage and tourism in general.
The authorities immediately took action to cope with the disaster and ensured that everything will be restored to its former glory, but for now we will have to wait a long time before we can still enjoy the beauties and singularities of this historic building.
The revolution is long over, Zanzibar is no longer a sultanate and today’s reality is very different from that in which the last sultan lived. Nevertheless, in the streets, in every portal and in all the historic buildings, you can find the atmosphere of the past, made up of unique refinements and artistic forms belonging to a distant world.
I have seen several times that visiting historical places has a particular charm. One realizes, passing through the streets, that those same streets have witnessed other passages and events that still breathe the air. The buildings now uninhabited or converted into museums were the home of characters who made history, for better or for worse. This feeling is as unique as it is personal. It gives me the opportunity to feel part of something that has been and that has made a difference in some way.😊