UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Zanzibar (Zanguebar or Zinjibar (Arabic زنجبار), as it’s known in the ancient and old maps) takes its prominence as the center of Swahili culture that flourished in the 19th century. Swahili has emerged as a unifying language of a mixture of different people from different parts of the world make it world heritage. 

Stone Town (Mji Mkongwe) is regarded as the center of this civilization. The trading town played a fundamental role in the rise of Swahili, which today has spread to Eastern and central of African content. The buildings and narrow meandering alleys harmonize centuries of diverse elements of culture and artistic features from different corners of the world: Arabian Gulf, India, Europe, and even China, that brought ki-Swahili into existence. To preserve this heritage and legacy, UNESCO declared Stone Town a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

Stone Town gained this international status for the outstanding manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization, the exceptional characteristics of its urban structures, and its great symbolic importance in the suppression of slavery on the East African coast.

The most important place is Zanzibar City’s old quarter that has the World Heritage Site of Stone Town. Stone Town has roads, alleys, clusters of buildings, and the name originated because of the reddish coral stone used in the construction material of the houses.

stone-town view
stone-town view

Major Spots & Buildings

UNESCO world heritage Stone Town comprises buildings and edifices from different eras. ‘Ngome Kongwe’ or Old Fort represents the Portuguese presence in the island in the 18th century, which lasted for nearly two centuries until they were ousted by Arab Omanis. During the Al Busaidi dynasty rule, the town grew, flourished and emerged as a major maritime port in East Africa. Sultan Barghash built the House of Wonder (Beit al Ajaib in Arabic), the People’s Palace, the mansion of Tippu Tip, Jamat Khan of Ismaili sect, and Persian baths are just few of buildings from this golden era of Zanzibar.

 Stone Town

Zanzibar Stone Town is the capital of Zanzibar island and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Stone Town represents the East Africa Swahili coastal trading towns. It retains the townscape intact. Even today, the fine buildings reflect its culture, which has homogenized disparate cultural elements of the Arab world, Africa, Europe, and India, even after a millennium.

Preserved Traces

You can find preserved traces of historical events all over UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town. Whether you walk through the labyrinth narrow alleyways or relax at Forodhani Garden, it reminds you of the early settlers of the island. The Omani palaces and the mosques, the cannons, and the old fort reveal the Sultan’s statehood presence of yesteryear.

The latticed windows and intricately carved doors bring the essence of Swahili, while the fresh spices of this island display the significance of the spice route. Zanzibar’s Stone Town is fiercely preserved, and even today, there is every day laid back pace. You can find old men in the town squares drinking coffee while kids play along the alleys.


UNESCO world heritage site, Stone Town’s buildings manifest their construction materials, structure, techniques, influence, and interchange of different cultures encircling the rim of the Indian Ocean. The universal value is outstanding, and the town’s layout includes the building’s relationship to the open spaces, roads, streets, and gardens.

The delicate status of its building is evident in some areas. However, the international and local efforts to preserve the town as a universal heritage have helped restore most of the buildings in their pristine and original condition.  Today, the shade in the labyrinth of lanes is the adorning lichens, taking you to the past shopper’s paradise. There’s an opportunity to buy beautiful jewelry, artifacts, fresh seafood, organic fruits, traditional clothing, and lots more.

 Visit Stone Town, and you will visualize a long-gone era.

The palaces and old mansions, the old Turkish Baths, market stalls, lively bazaars, and all the shops overwhelm your senses with detail, narrating the tumultuous and long story. Zanzibar is predominantly Islamic, apparent in the local lifestyle and designs from fabric to furniture, crafts, and jewelry.

The Ancient Connection Kept Alive

The architecture of the buildings in UNESCO World Heritage Site  Stone Town presents a combination of Persian, Arab, African, Indian, and European styles that resemble the old Jerusalem parts or old Delhi, Dariba Kalan.

Zanzibar Doors

Zanzibar doors are very famous for elaborated reliefs and carvings with brass studs that you see in Muscat, Mombasa, or Kutch. The door’s carvings feature Quran verses or lotus flowers occasionally. Some doors display the truth of ancient cultures being alive on the doors that have Indian arches with carvings in Arabic.

doors of zanzibar
zanzibar door