Stone Town | Zanzibar
Stone Town is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture, giving a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements.
Stone Town is located along a natural harbor and the first Europeans to set foot on the island of Zanzibar were the Portuguese. The Portuguese ruled the island for over 2 centuries and began constructing Stone Town’s first stone structure, the Old Fort. However, towards the end of the 17th century, the Sultanate of Oman took over the island and completed the fort to prevent future attacks. The first stone houses in Stone Town probably began to be built in the 1830s, gradually replacing an earlier fishing village around the Old Fort.
Stone Town’s architecture has a number of distinctive features, as a result of Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African traditions mixing together. The name “Stone Town” comes from the ubiquitous use of coral stone as the main construction material; this stone gives the town a characteristic, reddish warm colour. Traditional buildings have a baraza, a long stone bench along the outside walls; this is used as an elevated sidewalk if heavy rains make the streets impracticable, or otherwise as benches to sit down, rest, socialize.