"The House of Wonders" Top 5 Page for this destination Zanzibar Island Things to Do Tip by toonsarah
Zanzibar Island Things to Do: 150 reviews and 207 photos
One of the most striking of Stone Town’s historic buildings is the so-called House of Wonders, or Beit el Ajaib in Arabic. It got its name because it was the first building in Zanzibar to have electric lighting and a lift, and perhaps also because it was so very tall and filled with beautiful objects.
It was built in 1883 as a ceremonial palace, on the site of a former building used by Queen Fatuma of the Al Alawi rulers. The door from this former palace is the oldest in Zanzibar, dating from 1694, and is now in the Peace Memorial Museum.
In 1896 the building was slightly damaged during the so-called "Shortest War in History" (the British Bombardment of Zanzibar). After the turn of the century the British used the building for their local offices until the revolution of 1964. In 1977 the CCM (the Chapa Cha Mapinduzi, Swahili for “Party of the Revolution”) used the House of Wonders as their headquarters, but when they left the building fell into disrepair. When we were there in 1999 it was looking pretty run down but its splendours still shone through, especially the elegant tower and fine decorative work on the balconies.
The building has been restored and since 2005 has housed a Museum of History and Culture. Exhibits include: dhow culture of the Indian Ocean, the struggle for independence, Swahili civilization, and displays on the history of the Swahili Coast. There is also apparently a great view to be had from the top floor, so it seems the museum would be well worth a visit even if the exhibits themselves don’t interest you.
Directions: In the centre of Stone Town near the sea, next to the Old Fort
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