Stone Town is a very modern city. It was founded during the time of the sultanate of Oman (17th cenury) as a village of fishermen. It mixed both Persian and Arab cultures, plus the ancient traditions of the Bantu tribes who already lived there before the Shirazi age. As a real city, Stone Town started only in the 19th century: in 1830 to be exact. From that year on, the old village became larger and larger, had stone buildings of great beauty and gardens too. It was such a wonderful place that, only ten years later, the sultan of Oman himself decided to move his own home over there. When in 1861 Zanzibar separated from Oman and became a new independent sultanate, Stone Town was its capital city.
Stone Town, the old core of Zanzibar
Slowly the sultanate of Zanzibar lost importance and became a colony of the European settlers. Germans, first, then the British. It remained a semi autonomous sultanate but as a part of the British Commonwealth, up to 1964. During this time – from late 19th to mid 20th century – the city became a very famous trade capital and grew even larger. Today it is the oldest part, the ancient “core” of the new capital of the island, also named Zanzibar. What makes it so beautiful is its architecture, that mixes old and new styles, western and eastern elements. But the most important tourist attractions, here, are the artistic doors!
The beautiful doors of Stone Town
The name “Stone Town” is due both to the first houses built in stone – which characterized this place in 1830 – and to the materials they used for the decorations. Stone is everywhere, and if there is not, the corals remind very much of it. Wood and metal (brass, especially) are also very common as materials. They are used to build the very large bench-sidewalks (barazas), the verandahs – each with a beautiful carved balustrade, and the doors.
All decorated with elegant carvings and paintings, the old doors of Stone Town are usually made of dark wood and bright golden brass elements. Or they are painted in blue, green, yellow colours. Doors with round, decorated arches over them are Indian style; those with a straight architrave remind the Oman age’s style. The carvings recall the main Islamic symbols or flowers, fruits and other symbols of prosperity. You could recognize a rich family from a poor one also by just looking at the doors: the more carvings and squares and brass elements you saw, the nobler and more powerful was the house’s owner.
Because of these beautiful doors, today Stone Town is included into UN World Heritage. Besides, the delicate stone it is made of will disappear in time, consumed by climate elements. So, a holiday to Zanzibar and Stone Town is a must if you want to admire a jewel before it will be a historical memory. Stone Town is a surprise that will welcome you in beauty.