Mosques of Zanzibar Town
Most of Zanzibar's population is Muslim, consequently Zanzibar Town has several mosques. The oldest is Malindi Mosque, a small, inconspicuous building near the port, with a minaret which is thought to be several hundred years old. Three of the larger mosques are in the northern part of Stone Town: the Ijumaa Mosque (Sunni); the Ithnasheri Mosque (Shia); and the Aga Khan Mosque (Ismaili). These were all built in the 19th century. Compared with the large mosques of other Islamic cities, often decorated with domes and tall minarets, the mosques of Zanzibar are relatively plain and unpretentious. However, in 1994 the Ijumaa Mosque (near the Big Tree) was completely renovated in a modern arabesque style, and the other large mosques may follow this trend.
Non-Muslims are not normally allowed to enter any mosque in Zanzibar Town although, if you have a genuine interest, a good local guide might be able to speak to the mosque's elders on your behalf and arrange an invitation. Men will find this easier than women. There are usually no restrictions on non-Muslims (men or women) visiting the area around a mosque, although photos of local people praying or simply congregating should not be taken without permission.
The Upimaji building
Between the orphanage and the People's Bank of Zanzibar, this building is now the Commission for Lands and Environment. In the 1860s it was the offices and home of Heinrich Ruete, the German merchant who eloped with Princess Salme.
The old British Consulate
This fine old house was used as the British consulate from 1841 to 1874, after which the consulate was moved to the Mambo Msiige building (see below). The first consul was Lieutenant-Colonel Atkins Hamerton, posted here to represent the interests of Britain after Sultan Said moved his capital from Oman to Zanzibar.
Later consuls here played host to several of the well-known British explorers, including Speke, Burton, Grant and Stanley, before they set out for their expeditions on the east African mainland. In 1874, the body of David Livingstone was brought here before being taken back to Britain for burial at Westminster Abbey.
From 1874 to 1974 the building was used as offices by the trading company Smith Mackenzie, but it was taken over by the government in the late 1970s. It is still used as government offices today, and visitors are not allowed to enter, but there is not much to see on the inside; most of the building's interest lies in its grand exterior.
The Mambo Msiige building
Its name meaning 'look but do not imitate', this grand house, incorporating a variety of architectural styles, overlooks the open 'square' at the far western end of Shangani Road. It was originally built around 1850 for a wealthy Arab, but the building was sold to the British Foreign Office in 1875 and used as the British consulate until 1913. From 1918 to 1924 it was used as the European hospital, after which it became government offices. Today, the Zanzibar Shipping Corporation is based here.
The Zanzibar milestone Near the People's Gardens is this octagonal pillar, built with marble taken from the palace at Chukwani, showing the distances from Zanzibar Town to other settlements on the island. For complete accuracy, the distances were measured from this exact point. The distance to London is also shown: 8,064 miles. This is the distance by sea. (By 1870, ships between Zanzibar and London travelled via the Suez Canal. Before this all voyages were much longer, via the Cape of Good Hope.)
The Zanzibar Milestone
Near the People's Gardens is this octagonal pillar, built with marble taken from the palace at Chukwani, showing the distances from Zanzibar Town to other settlements on the island. For complete accuracy, the distances were measured from this exact point. The distance to London is also shown: 8,064 miles. This is the distance by sea. (By 1870, ships between Zanzibar and London travelled via the Suez Canal. Before this all voyages were much longer, via the Cape of Good Hope.)