The Palace Museum : It is a three-story structure that can be found on the beachfront along Mizingani Road, between the House of Wonders and the Old Dispensary. The old palace, which was destroyed during the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, is where it now stands. The current palace was constructed in the late 19th century to house the Sultan’s family.
This substantial white structure with castellated battlements is located on Mizingani Road, which is extremely near the water. It was created in the late 1890s for members of the sultan’s family and was originally known as the Sultan’s Palace. It served as the Sultan of Zanzibar‘s formal palace starting in 1911, but after Sultan Jamshid was deposed in the 1964 Revolution, it was renamed the People’s Palace. The palace was still being utilized as a government building up until 1994, when it was converted into a museum devoted to the history of the Zanzibari sultans.
Surprisingly, a large portion of their furniture and other belongings made it through the revolutionary years and are now being made public for the first time. The museum is educational and well organized; the lower levels show artifacts from the later, more opulent period of 1870 to 1896, while the ground floor is devoted to the early years of the sultanate (1828 to 1870). In addition to beds and the sultan’s own water closet, these feature thrones, feast tables, and ceremonial furnishings. Princess Salme, the daughter of Sultan Said, who eloped to Hamburg with a German businessman in 1866, has her own room. The princess herself recounts this remarkable tale in her book, Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar, which is available for purchase at the museum. The graves of Sultans Said, Barghash, Majid, Khaled, Khalifa, and Abdullah are located outside in the royal garden.
An excellent compact brochure with a clear, succinct historical history, maps, and explanations of every palace chamber is available. Moreover, guides are available to walk you around and thoroughly explain the exhibits; their charge is negotiable but should be set in advance (around $5 is reasonable).
PALACE MUSEUM TRAVEL TIPS
Entrance Ticket Details For The Palace Museum: For 5 USD, you will get a guide to show you around.
How to reach the Palace Museum: You can get here by taxi or on foot.
OTHER BEST PLACES TO VISIT NEAR THE PALACE MUSEUM INCLUDES:
National Museum (Peace Memorial Museum)
The National Museum is a fantastic location to learn about the interesting past and alluring culture of the islands. It is home to a plethora of Zanzibar’s historical treasures. Traditional sculptures and unique bird and reptile species are on display. Visitors can also see artifacts from the Sultanate and the era of the first explorers, such as exquisite Chinese china, a bicycle lamp that ran on palm oil, and David Livingstone’s medical chest.
The National Museum’s spherical design honors Zanzibar’s Arab heritage and is suggestive of eastern architecture from Istanbul and India. It was designed as a peace memorial by British architect J.H. Sinclair. Watch out for the enormous land tortoises that live in the tropical garden of the museum.
Constructed at the turn of the 17th century on the remains of a Portuguese church and crumbling Arab garrison, the burly Old Fort was designed to ward off the daring Portuguese mariners and Mazrui Arabs of Mombasa, desperate to take authority over the productive ‘Spice Island’. In 1754, the Mazrui Arabs attacked the imperturbable old fort but were repulsed. Afterwards, villagers and slaves were imprisoned behind the thick caramel walls and castellated battlements.
Later, the fort served as the depot for the Bububu railway, the island of Zanzibar’s first railroad that ran from Zanzibar Town to Bububu but is now nonexistent. The Old Fort now includes shops, henna salons, and a cultural center where tourists may admire the skilled craftsmanship of regional artisans at work. Evenings at the open-air theater are brightened by local music and dancing, and occasionally movies are screened there.
Anglican Cathedral and Slave Market
The largest slave market on the island, which was abolished in 1873, is where Stone Town’s enormous Anglican Cathedral stands. The former whipping post, a tree where slaves were brutally beaten to demonstrate their toughness and fortitude to prospective slave owners, is exactly where the cathedral’s altar now stands. The third bishop of Zanzibar and ardent abolitionist Edward Steere oversaw the construction of the monument, which was dedicated to commemorating the end of the slave trade and started in 1873.
The cathedral is notable for its basilica shape and barrel vault roof, which the general public thought would never hold. It combines Gothic and Arabic architectural elements. Edward Steere spent ten years building it and passed away from a heart attack in the middle of it. He was buried beneath the altar. Keep an eye out for the somber memorial, which is a sculpture of a slave family with a chain around their neck, outside the church.
House of Wonders (Beit el-Ajab)
Beit el-Ajaib, which translates to “House of Wonders,” was once Queen Fatuma’s residence and was constructed in 1883. It was the first structure in Zanzibar to have electricity and the first building in East Africa to have an elevator. The House of Wonders, a beautiful white structure, has had many uses over the years, including serving as the local offices of the British and the headquarters of Tanzania’s political party, CCM.
Visitors can now freely view the ornately carved doors, the Portuguese cannons from the 16th century, the tiers of pillars, and the wraparound balconies that give the palace its allure after it was renovated in 2005 to preserve Beit el-cultural Ajaib’s legacy. Don’t miss the expansive views from the top floor, the historical museum exhibits about coastal East Africa, or the craft market that operates during the day on the veranda.
Old Dispensary (Aga Khan Cultural Centre)
The magnificent Old Dispensary, which bears the name because it formerly housed a dispensary on the ground floor together with a pharmacy and a resident doctor, is a representation in architecture of the plurality of civilizations present in Zanzibar’s history. The building project was financed by wealthy Ismaili Indian trader Tharia Topan, who placed the first brick in 1887 and saw it through to completion in 1894. The Old Dispensary, one of the most opulent structures of the era, is embellished with elaborately carved balconies, stuccowork, and stained glass windows. The dispensary, which was restored in the early 1990s, now has a small museum on the upper level that features antiquated images of Stone Town’s shoreline and exhibits that describe the labor-intensive restoration process. On the bottom floor, there are a few curio shops as well.
Maruhubi ruins, Mtoni Palace ruins, and Kidichi Persian Baths
Go north to the tranquil Maruhubi and Mtoni Palace ruins if you want to spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of Stone Town. Mtoni was initially constructed by Sultan Said bin Sultan between 1828 and 1834, after he left Muscat and assumed the throne of Zanzibar. It was also Princess Salme’s childhood home. Later in the 1880s, Sultan Barghash constructed the opulent Maruhubi Palace as a harem for his wife and 99 concubines. The primarily wooden building, which was among the most exquisite of its era, was destroyed by fire in 1889 and left in ruins. The expansive gardens, bathhouses, and water lily ponds evoke the opulent lifestyle that palace occupants enjoyed more than a century ago. Go north to the Kidichi Persian Baths, built by Sultan Seyyid Said for his Persian wife, to see a well-preserved hammam from the 1850s.
The Mangapwani Caves, which have a natural cave and a man-made cavern used for the confinement of slaves, are evidence that the slave trade virtually disappeared after the abolition of slavery in 1897. This is where the slaves were held until they were covertly transported to cargo ships and delivered to slave markets in India and throughout Europe. The artificial cavern is a damp, dark cell with a few air vents sticking above the earth, whereas the first is a big natural cave with a freshwater pool. Poles were inserted into the holes over the heads of the first 50 slaves, and boards were put up so that a further 50 men could be packed inside on top. Make a stop at Mangapwani if you want to learn more about the horrific living circumstances that slaves endured in east Africa in the 1800s.