Tippu Tip's House
Tippu tip (also spelt Tippoo Tib and Toppu Tob) was a slave trader, whose real name was Hamed bin Mohammed el Marjebi. He was born in the 1840s and began to participate in the slave trade at the age of 18. His nickname is thought to come either from a local word meaning 'to blink', as he apparently had a nervous twitch affecting his eyes, or because his eyes resembled those of a type of bird called Tippu Tib locally because it had characteristic blinking eyes.
During the mid 19th century, Tippu Tip travelled for many years across the east African mainland, trading in slaves and ivory. He also helped some of the European explorers such as Livingstone and Stanley with their supplies and route-planning.
Contemporary records describe him as tall, bearded, fit and strong, with dark skin, an intelligent face and the air of a well-bred Arab. He reportedly visited his concubines twice a day, and is said to have argued with missionaries that Abraham and Jacob (men of God, who appear in the Bible and the Koran) had both been slave owners themselves. Tippu Tip became very wealthy and by 1895, after many years of trading on the mainland, he owned seven plantations on Zanzibar and 10,000 slaves. He died in 1905.
The house where Tippu Tip lived is near the Africa House Hotel, behind the offices of Jasfa Tours. Until the 1960s it was a private residence, but after the revolution it was turned into a block of flats and is now occupied by several families. The house has not been maintained since its transformation, and one writer has called it 'the most magnificent squat in all of Africa'. It is not open to visitors. However, the huge carved front door (a sign of Tippu Tip's great wealth) leading into the courtyard can still be seen.