February 28, 2004
The Old Dispensary is one of these restored building. It’s a four story building and reminds of British colonial architecture in India. It now houses the Stone Town Cultural centre. There is no entry charge and you are free to come in and look round.
The Big Tree is next to the Old Dispensary. It is a huge Banyan tree that was planted in 1911. It serves as a home to a colony of monkeys. It’s a cool and shady place for builders who use it as their workplace.
Palace Museumis the former sultan’s palace. It is a white, three-story building and overlooks the ocean. Inside you can see furnished rooms and some possessions of the sultan. I liked best the Formica wardrobes, 1950s style, on the second floor in the sultan’s bedroom.
House of Wondershas a colonnaded facade of huge pillars and balconies. I find it the most characteristic building of Stone Town. It was the first to have running water and electricity installed as early as 1906. It also boasts an electric lift but this broke down long ago. The clock tower is a true landmark and tells the time in Swahili: add or subtract 6 hours and you have western time. The house of Wonders used to be an administrative palace, now it houses the National Museum. Exhibits show many aspects of daily life in Zanzibar. They are clearly labelled in English and Swahili. What I liked best was Livingstone’s medical case, which looked as if it had been used yesterday.
Africa Houseis a grand old building and used to be the English Club. There is a huge terrace overlooking the ocean, a popular place to see the sun set. This was the place where Europeans used to sip their gin-and-tonic. The terrace is above eight garages where members could park their cars. These days they have been converted into little shops selling souvenirs to tourists. Africa House is now a hotel frequented by small tour groups as it has only 12 rooms. The terrace is still as popular as ever.
Near Victoria Hall and Garden in the Vuga district there is a milestone which says: London 8040 miles. This was the distance by ship after the Suez canal was opened in 1869. I’m a long way away from Europe.
From journal Zanzibar: Stone Town