Stone Town

Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Stone Town of Zanzibar

State Party =
Type = Cultural
Criteria = ii, iii, vi
ID = 173
Region = Africa
Year = 2000
Session = 24th
Link =

Stone Town or Mji Mkongwe, in Swahili meaning "ancient town", is the old part of Zanzibar City (or Unguja Mjini) - the capital of the island of Unguja, informally known as Zanzibar, a part of Tanzania. []

The old town is built on a triangular peninsula of land on the western coast of the island. The oldest part of the town consists of a warren of narrow alleys to houses, shops, bazaars, and mosques. Cars are often too wide to drive down many of the maze of winding streets.

Its Swahili architecture incorporates elements of Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African styles. The Arab houses are particularly notable because they have large and ornately carved wooden doors and other unusual features such as enclosed wooden verandas.

The site has probably been occupied for around three centuries with buildings only being constructed with stone since the 1830s.

Two large buildings dominate the main front of Stone Town. One is Beit-El-Ajaib or the House of Wonders, which was built by Sultan Seyyid Barghash as a grand palace for ceremonial purposes. The other is the Arab Fort which stands on the site of a former Portuguese settlement and was converted to a fort during the 18th Century.

The town was the centre of trade on the East African coast between Asia and Africa before the colonization of the mainland in the late 1800s after which the focus moved to Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. From 1840 to 1856, Said bin Sultan had the capital of the Omani Empire in Stone Town. The main export was spices and particularly cloves. For many years Stone Town was a major centre for the slave trade; Slaves were obtained from mainland Africa and traded with the Middle East. The Anglican Cathedral is built on the site of a former slave market. Some of the holding cells still exist.

The town also became a base for many European explorers, particularly the Portuguese, and colonizers from the late 1800s. David Livingstone used Stone Town as his base for preparing for his final expedition in 1866. A house, now bearing his name, was lent by Sultan Seyyid Said. Immigrant communities from Oman, Persia and India lived here. These were often engaged in trade or, in the case of the Omanis, were rulers of the island and its dependent territories.

Stone Town has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

It is also famous as the birthplace of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the rock band Queen.

According to the 2002 Tanzania National Census, the population of the Urban District, to which Stone Town belongs, was 206,292. []


The Zanzibar Urban District is administratively divided into 40 wards:

* Amaani
* Chumbuni
* Gulioni
* Jang'ombe
* Karakana (English Translation: "workshop" "garage")
* Kidongo Chekundu
* Kikwajuni Bondeni (English Translation: "Valley of the small tamarind")
* Kikwajuni Juu (English Translation: "upper small tamarind")
* Kilimahewa (English Translation: "airy hill")
* Kilimani (English Translation: "on the hill")
* Kiponda
* Kisima Majongoo (English Translation: "well of the millipedes")
* Kwaalamsha
* Kwaalinato
* Kwahani
* Kwamtipura
* Magomeni
* Makadara
* Malindi
* Matarumbeta (English Translation: "the trumpets")
* Mchangani (English Translation: "the sands")
* Miembeni (English Translation: "mango trees")
* Mikunguni
* Mkele
* Mkunazini
* Mlandege
* Mpendae (English Translation: "love one another")
* Muembe Ladu
* Muembe Makumi
* Muungano (English Translation: United)
* Mwembeshauri (English Translation: "mango tree of the shauri variety")
* Mwembetanga (English Translation: "mango tree of the tanga variety")
* Nyerere (surname of the first president of Tanzania - Julius Kambarage Nyerere
* Rahaleo (English Translation: "happiness today")
* Sebleni (English Translation: "in the sitting room")
* Shangani
* Shaurimoyo
* Sogea (English Translation: "move over")
* Urusi (English Translation: "Russia")
* Vikokotoni (English Translation: "gravel pit")

Famous residents

* Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara) was born in Stone Town.
* Ali Muhsin al-Barwani, first foreign minister of independent Zanzibar
* David Livingstone, Explorer, missionary and colonialist.

External links

* [ UNESCO Stone Town Site]
* [ Zanzibar Urban District Homepage for the 2002 Tanzania National Census]
* [ Local tourist information]

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