The House of Wonders, or Beit-al-Ajab, is another name for the House of Wonders. It is a well-known landmark in Zanzibar’s Stone Town. The building is located on Soko kuu Street, near the Maru Maru Hotel, to the south of the Zanzibar port and ferry station. It sits between the Old Fort and the Palace Museum and faces Forodhani Gardens. It stands opposite Mizingani Road and is Zanzibar’s tallest structure. It was constructed in 1883 by the second Sultan of Zanzibar, Barghash bin Said. The structure was designed as a ceremonial palace and a formal reception hall to honor modernism. It was given the name House of Wonders since it was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and the first elevator in East Africa.
A British marine engineer designed the structure, its design added new architectural aspects to Zanzibar’s repertoire, such as vast outdoor verandas supported by cast-iron columns, allowing for unusually high ceilings. It is flanked by open galleries and features a big central covered courtyard, or atrium. The palace’s interior doors are engraved with magnificent Quran inscriptions. The silver and marble ornaments were also imported from Europe. The three-story structure includes third-floor balconies with spectacular views of Zanzibar’s cityscape.
Culture and history
The museum provides visitors with a better understanding of Zanzibar’s and Swahili people’s history. The structure was completed in the early 2000s. The mtepe, a traditional Swahili boat fashioned with coir rope and wooden pegs instead of nails, is on exhibit in the inner courtyard. There are several rooms with exhibits on various topics, including Swahili fishing tools and traditional ships, portraits of Zanzibar Sultans and other notable Zanzibar people, such as the famous portrait of slave trader Tippu Tip, elements of the Sultans’ palace furniture, and information on East African biomes. On the ground level, one of the apartments houses an old automobile that once belonged to President Abeid Karume.
Over the ages, the Palace Museum has collected cultural and architectural elements from Zanzibar, Britain, Portugal, and Omani. The House of Wonders is a beautiful Arab palace built in the Omani style that contains various elements that provide a rare insight into a bygone age. The Sultan had wild creatures chained up in front of the building, in front of the main entryway, for exhibition. Two antique Portuguese bronze mortars from the 16th century stand at the entrance. In 1622, the Persians took them and gave them to the Sultans of Oman, who eventually transported them to Zanzibar. The symbol of Portugal’s King John III is displayed on the largest mortar. The Monument’s Preservation Every year, around 25,000 travelers are projected to visit Zanzibar.
Every year, the House of Wonders offers a number of public events. It is at risk of structural breakdown due to environmental difficulties and a lack of conservation efforts throughout the years. In 2012, a huge section of the house fell, destroying several ancient iron pillars and jeopardizing the building’s structural integrity and façade. To raise awareness of their predicament both locally and worldwide, the monument received a grant from American Express for the 2014 season.
Governments, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, business groups, academics from across the world, and the general populace of Zanzibar all participated in the watch day in December 2015. The major goals of the event, which included a guided tour, were to increase awareness of the broader threat to the palace and establish broad political support for the move.
Fees for admission
The House of Wonders is accessible via Daladala, taxi, or foot. The Museum charges 6,000 Tsh Shillings for adults and 4,000 Tsh Shillings for children; Zanzibar residents have had free admission since 2011. Although the monument is now closed for safety concerns, plans are in the works to renovate it and return it to the public so that tourists can learn more about the Swahili people of Zanzibar’s history and traditions.