Attraction Sokoku St, Zanzibar, Tan-da-ni-a Published on: 16-11-2017
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Why House of Wonders (Beit-al-Ajaib) is special ?
The House of Wonders currently houses the Museum of History and Culture of Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast.The palace was built in 1883 for Barghash bin Said, second Sultan of Zanzibar. It was intended as a ceremonial palace and official reception hall, celebrating modernity, and it was named "House of Wonders" because it was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity, and also the first building in East Africa to have an elevator.
The design of the palace is attributed to a British marine engineer and indeed its form introduced new architectural elements into the Zanzibar repertoire, including the wide external verandas supported by cast-iron columns, which allowed for uniquely high ceilings. The construction materials consisted of an original combination of coral rag, concrete slabs, mangrove shoots or boriti, and steel beams.
What to explore at House of Wonders (Beit-al-Ajaib)?
The House of Wonders Museum, inaugurated in the early 2000s has permanent exhibits on aspects of the Swahili and Zanzibari culture as well as the East African environment. The inner courtyard is fully occupied by a mtepe (a traditional Swahili boat). Around this courtyard, developing on three floors, there are several rooms with other exhibits on a variety of subjects, including Swahili fishing tools and traditional ships, ceremonial kangas, portraits of Zanzibari Sultans and other notable Zanzibari people (including a famous portrait of slave trader Tippu Tip), elements of furniture from the Sultans' palaces, as well as information on East African biomes. One of the rooms at ground floor hosts an old car that belonged to president Abeid Karume.
At the entrance of the palace there are two old Portuguese bronze cannons of the 16th century. They were captured by the Persians in 1622 and later donated to the Sultans of Oman, who brought them to Zanzibar. The biggest cannon has the emblem of king John III of Portugal.
Entrance to the Museum is 6.000 Tnz Shillings for adults and 4.000 Tnz Shillings for children, Zanzibar residents are admitted free (as of December 2011).
The House of Wonders is now closed due to disrepair. The Museum has moved to another location.
Sokoku St, Zanzibar, Tan-da-ni-a