The Carved Zanzibar Doors In Stone Town

The Carved Zanzibar Doors In Stone Town : Everything to know about Zanzibar door: Zanzibar doors with intricate carvings reveal the cultural origins of the Swahili coast in eastern Africa. Zanzibar’s doors are possibly the best example of how Swahili, Arab, and Indian cultures clash. If you look closely, these enormous teak works of art reveal the social standing, religion, and occupation of the people who created them.


Stone Town in Zanzibar is a photographer’s dream, but door lovers will really enjoy it. Stone Town should be promoted as an Instagrammer’s dream trip since the city’s pastel-colored wooden doors create the ideal backdrop for gritty urban images.

 Males congregate at street corners to drink coffee while engaged in boisterous conversations or while idly playing the game bao while stretching out and chasing each other’s cats through the doorways. Children are chasing a worn-out soccer ball while mothers are walking back from the market while lugging bulky goods on their heads. All of these instances are framed by those recognizable Zanzibar doors. Stone Town is like a doorway to the past, where time seems to have stopped.


The task is simple in Stone Town because you can’t help but see dozens of gorgeous Zanzibar doors while navigating the major streets and labyrinth of passageways. The most famous Indian, Arab, or Swahili doors can be found without a map; you only need to wander aimlessly for a while. Your guide will also point out Zanzibar doors if you choose to take a walking tour of Stone Town.

 The entrance to Stone Town’s Old Fort is decorated with one of Zanzibar’s oldest doors. While enjoying the highly recommended evening stroll through Forodhani Gardens and street fare, keep an eye out for an amazing door at the Old Customs building.

The exquisitely carved wooden doors that line the Swahili coast are referred to as “Zanzibar doors” as a concept. Zanzibar doors can therefore be seen elsewhere, for instance at Lamu Island and Mombasa in Kenya. There are beautiful examples of these carved wooden doors everywhere since the Zanzibar doors’ design has been imitated by people all over the world.


You’ve undoubtedly passed hundreds of brass-studded doors after spending a few hours exploring Stone Town, and a kind local has probably already explained the differences between Swahili, Indian, and Arabic door design. Since Stone Town has been separated into ethnic districts, doors from the same tradition can be found in groupings. Let’s examine the various door styles that may be seen in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

  1. Indian doors: brass studs and carved decorations

Gurajati doors, which are traditional Indian doors, typically have movable shutters and are separated into smaller pieces. These wooden doors were typical of Zanzibar’s bazaar streets. Another style of Indian door resembles Indian palace doors in having massive brass studs and an arched top frame. Indian brass studs were used to fortify the doors against elephants there. Due to the lack of elephants in Zanzibar, doors there are adorned with brass studs merely for decorative purposes. Similar to carved ornaments, brass studs display the resident’s affluence.

  1. Omani Arab Doors: Carved Frames and Friezes with Inscriptions

Arab doors often have rectangular frames with ornate carvings. They most typically consist of a carved frieze with Arabic writing or symbols, frequently Quranic quotations. The frieze frequently has the name of the resident etched in rosettes.

Older Arab doors have rectangular friezes, while more recent Arab doors with Indian influences have round friezes. Another effect of the Indian doors can be seen in Zanzibar’s Arab doors, which sometimes contain metal studs. The wealthier the resident, the more intricate the carvings.

The Carved Zanzibar Doors In Stone Town
The Carved Zanzibar Doors In Stone Town
  1. Swahili Doors: Simple Wooden Carvings

Swahili doors are simpler wooden doors without elaborate ornamentation when compared to Indian and Arab doors. However, the grandest and most intricate example of Swahili architecture are its doors. Even the carvings on Swahili doors are interesting.

Although rectangular like Arab doors, Swahili doors naturally lack Arabic lettering. Swahili doors are the earliest examples of Zanzibar doors. During the 19th century, door designs with Arab and Indian influences gained popularity.


Because Zanzibar’s doors are so large, many of them contain smaller entrances. Visitors can now pass through without having to open the entire large teak door. In the past, opening the massive entrance involved running the risk of inviting adversaries inside. Zanzibar doors all share the same pattern. A lintel, a central pillar, and two independent doors are present on either side of the doorway. The doorway supposedly had male and female doors in the past, The Carved Zanzibar Doors In Stone Town


As you delve farther into the captivating world of Zanzibar doors, you’ll find that every door is remarkably unique. The motifs and ornaments describe the tale of the resident.

Ropes and wave-like patterns make reference to maritime commerce. Chains are used to designate the houses of wealthy Arab slave dealers as well as to protect the building from evil spirits. The top of the entrance is decorated with flowers that indicate how many families had resided there, while vines signify the spice trade. Squares and other geometrical shapes are symbolic of accountants.


The earliest doors in Stone Town with Indian influences are crafted from Burmese wood that was shipped across the Indian Ocean. East African teak was employed when Burmese teak ran out of supply until it, too, became difficult to come by. Mahogany and ebony wood are now the primary materials used to make Zanzibar doors, The Carved Zanzibar Doors In Stone Town

 800 ancient Zanzibari doors were estimated to be present in Stone Town in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the number has reduced as a result of enthusiastic overseas collectors and a lack of renovation. Many of the entrances were being renovated when we visited Stone Town; we hope that the renovations will continue and this rich architectural history will be preserved.