House of Wonders

The house of wonders is a landmark which shows the fascinating history and culture of the people of Zanzibar which can be visited during tours around Stone town in Zanzibar.

The building is the highest and tallest in Stone town and it was built in 1883 by Barghash bin Said who was the second sultan of Zanzibar. The house of wonders was built by the sultan as a ceremonial palace and it also served as a residential hall.

It is located between the Old fort and the palace museum which are other landmarks that can be visited during tours around Stone town.  The house of wonders is also referred to as Beit-el-Ajaib.

The sultan of Zanzibar built the house of wonders in a way that the door was wide and he could enter the palace on the back of an elephant. The house of wonders also acted as a government facility for a period of time before it became abandoned.

House of Wonders
House of Wonders

The house of wonders was later restored and became a museum which can now be visited by the public who can tour the house, walk through the corridors and visit the rooms in the house among other experiences.

This beautiful landmark displays the different cultures of Zanzibar such as Portuguese, the British, the Swahili cultures among others which can be seen in the architecture of the House of wonders like the wooden carved doors, the garments, chests, carvings among other things in the house.

At the house of wonders is a boat (mtepe) which is found in the inner courtyard and in many other rooms around the house of wonders there are items such as fishing tools, traditional ships, kangas, portraits of sultans of Zanzibar, a portrait of Tippu Tip who was a famous slave trader in Zanzibar, one of the rooms at the house of wonders also has an old car which belonged to one of the presidents of Zanzibar (Abeid Karume) and it can be seen on the ground floor and at the entrance are 2 Portuguese canons which were captured by the Persians and they were brought to Zanzibar after being donated to the sultan of Oman.

Another interesting fact about the house of wonders is that it was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity. The house of wonders was built in a way that celebrates modernity and it was also the first building in East Africa to have an elevator.

Although a part of the house of wonders collapsed, joint efforts are being out in place to restore the building and also prevent the rest of the building from collapse.

There are many other places and landmarks to visit around Stone town which is a historical town found at the heart of Zanzibar island. Other places to visit in Stone town include the Forodhani gardens, the Arab fort, Darajani market, Changuu island, the Old slave market (Anglican cathedral of Christ), the Hamammi Persian baths and the old dispensary among others.

Stone town can be explored during guided tours on foot with a guide and during this activity; you can enjoy walking along the narrow alleyways of the town and also see the famous Zanzibar doors.

Changuu island is also known as the Prison island and can be accessed by taking a boat from Stone town which takes about 30 to 45 minutes and it is found north west of Stone town. Prison island is among the places where you can take part in snorkeling and swimming and also enjoy seeing giant tortoises. You can also take part in a beach walk and also walk on the wooden bridge. This island is good for half day tours and the best time to visit Changuu island is the dry season from June to October and also from December to February. This tour costs about 30 to 45 USD.

House of Wonders
The House of Wonders

When visiting Stone town, you can also engage in a tour of the old slave market which is currently the Anglican cathedral. During a tour of the old slave market, you can see a monument which shows how the slaves were held, and you can also go to the chambers where the slaves were held before they were taken to the market and sold. The old slave market is in a place where the biggest slave market in East Africa used to be. There is also an exhibition center which you can visit where pictures and historical information is displayed.

Another place to visit when in Stone town is the Darajani market which is the main bazaar in Stone town. There is a variety of items sold in this market including spices, fruits among others and this market is a market for the local sand not a tourist market which makes it a perfect location to experience how trade is done by the locals of Zanzibar.

You can also visit the old fort during tours around Zanzibar and it is also known as the Arab Fort. The Arab fort or Old fort is found close to the House of wonders and it is one of the oldest buildings in Zanzibar and it was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. In the inner part of the Fort, festivals are organized like the Zanzibar international film festival among others.

Visit Zanzibar island at any time of the year and enjoy going to various places such as the House of wonders.