At present there are 26 landmark buildings in Stone Town, rated as Grade I buildings. A Grade I building is a building with outstanding architectural, historical or cultural significance.
The Old Fort
The Old Fort’s foundation was laid by the Portuguese in early 1710s but the building was finalized in a Omani style in 1780. Was later used both as a prison by the British officials until 1950, and also as a railway workshop in the 1920s when the railway from Bububu to town was built. Now it is used as a cultural centre of Stone Town.
The House of Wonders – Beit el Ajaib
Built in 1883 by Sultan Sayyid Bargash for ceremonial purposes, but has also served as residence for one of his successors. After the revolution the building was used by the ruling party and in 2001 became the Museum of Zanzibar. In October 2012, the House of Wonders experienced a collapse in its southeastern corner. It has yet to be repaired.
The Persian Bath – Hamamni Bath – Kajificheni
The bath was built for the public by Sultan Seyyid Barghash (1870-88) and designed by an architect from Persia.
The People’s Palace – Forodhani
Since the first Sultan Sayyid Said settled in Zanzibar 1832 the location for the palace has been along the seafront. The palace has had many shapes and gone through many alterations by the various reigns. In the aftermath of the bombardment in 1896 both the harem (Beit al-Hukm) and the palace (Beit al-Sahil) were badly damaged. Only the palace was rebuilt, and in a much smaller scale. In spite of its smaller size, architectural greatness is still visible in today’s People’s Palace.
Royal Tombs – Forodhani
There are several Royal Tombs scattered about the Forodhani neighbourhood. The custom in old times was to have the burial sites close the homes. The Sultan’s family is mainly buried in the vicinity of the palace.
Royal Baths – Forodhani
A small Persian bath for the Sultan’s family was built inside one of the palaces (Beit al-Tahin) – today Forodhani School.
The Market Building – Mkunazini
Its original name was ‘Sayyidieh Market’, inaugurated in 1904 and designed by the British architect Sinclair. It was built on the first reclaimed land along what is now known as Creek Road, still having the creek at its back.
The Aga Khan (Jamatkhana) Mosque
The present mosque of the Ismaili community is from 1905, even though the first construction was done already in 1838. The building is well maintained and has typical Gujarati style entrance door.
The Bharmal Building
The building of today Municipal Council was built in 1923 on reclaimed land, by an Indian merchant who traded in tea. The building was also used by the British for the senior Government officials.
The Kilosa House – Shangani
The origin of the building is unknown but its purpose was to serve as warehouse on the ground floor with lodging facilities on the first floor. It is still used for commercial purposes after its renovation in the mid 1990’s.
The Mambo Msiige Building – near Kelele Square
The Mambo Msiige is a building with a colourful past. It was built around 1850 by a wealthy Arab resident and the name means ‘do not imitate’ – giving a hint of its stunning design and architecture. The building was later used both as residence for British representatives, as the Universities Mission in Central Africa, as a European hospital and is today a Government office.
The Tippu Tip House – Shangani
The Tippu Tip house was built by the renowned slave trader with the same name. It is not a traditional Arab house but still reflects the characteristic styles of other houses built in the late 19th century. This building is in an unfortunate state of disrepair.
The High Court Building – Vuga
The High Court Building belongs to the group of buildings designed by the British architect Sinclair in the style defined as ‘Saracenism’.
The Peace Memorial Museum – Mnazi Mmoja
Beit el-Amani, as it was originally named, was built as a monument of the First World War. Again it’s the architect Sinclair who is behind the design with clear inspirations from the Aya Sophia Mosque in Istanbul. The building was completed in 1925.
The Ithinasheri Dispensary – Malindi
This building from 1899, with its very Indian influenced architecture was built as a charity dispensary by the Indian merchant Tharia Topan. It was named the Jubilee Hospital to honour Queen Victoria at her golden jubilee. The building was fully renovated in the mid-1990’s, but is still most known as the ‘Old Dispensary’.
The Malindi Minaret Mosque Bamnara
The oldest mosque in Stone Town, probably built in 1831. Most mosques in Stone Town are built without minarets, making this an exceptional example. The use of conical minarets, like the one at Bamnara mosque, can be found in southern Algeria.
The St. Joseph Roman Catholic Cathedral – Baghani
One of the two Christian public buildings in Stone Town and inaugurated in 1898 and designed by a French architect.
The Anglican Cathedral – Mkunazini
The Anglican Cathedral has much become a symbol of the end of the slave trade area. The foundation stone was laid down in 1873, the same year that the slave trade was officially abolished. The Anglican Cathedral is mainly build by cement and not lime mortar, and has tried to incorporate some Arabic features in its mainly Gothic design. It is said that Sultan Barghash donated the clock for the tower with the condition that the tower should not exceed the tower at the Beit el-Ajaib.
The Khoja Ismail Charitable Musafirkhana – Kiponda
The Musafirkhana or Caravanserai in Kiponda was built to host travellers and visitors exclusively from the Khorja Ismail community. The two storey building had thirty-six individual rooms all facing a spacious open court yard and was completed in 1892.
The State House – Vuga
Today’s State House was designed as the British Residency and built in 1903. The building belongs to the group of buildings designed by the British architect Sinclair.
Mnazi Mmoja Hospital – Mnazi Mmoja
The first part of the hospital was built in 1896 and had 6 Asian wards and 9 African. In 1924 an additional wing for Europeans was constructed. After the revolution the hospital was named IV Lenin Hospital for a while.
Tembo Hotel – Forodha Mchanga
An Arab mansion built on the waterfront and in the 1990s renovated as a hotel.
Hindu Temple – Kiponda
The temple is located just behind the People’s Palace (Sultan’s Palace) imbedded in a residential area and a bit anonymous. The temple is believed to have been built in the 1870s.
Minaret of Shia Ithnasheri Mosque – Kajificheni
One of the few minarets belonging to the traditional mosques in Stone Town, built with clear influence from Indian mosques and dated back to 1894.
Chawl Building – Darajani
Sultan Barghash decided on the construction of the Chawl building in an attempt to improve revenue to his Government. The ground floor was designed for shops and store area and the first floor as residential quarter. The building was built on the shore of the creek, stretching for about 100 metres from the Central market towards the bridge connecting town with the Ngambo area.
Former British Consulate – Forodha Mchanga
The British Consulate was opened in 1841, strategically located in the commercial quarters but with the pleasure of the closeness to the sea. The building is said to have accommodated the famous explorers, Speke, Burton and Dr. Livingstone, at various times. In 1874 the C 0 onsulate moved to Mambo Msiige and the house was taken over by the Smith MacKenizie Company until 1974 when turned into a Government office.4