Zanzibar has many fascinating ruins to visit, and the government has set
up a ticket system that allows accessto all of them for under a dollar. The fee is levied to help preserve the monuments and keep them clean and is valid for a day.
Maruhubi Palace was built in 1880 as a retreat for Sultan Barghash, and acted as a permanent residence for around a hundred of his concubines. The once magnifcent structure was accidentally burned down in 1899, and all that remains today is the roof of the large Persian baths. But the ruins are set within attractive rambling grounds overlooking the ocean, with cows wandering around the crumbling columns and old pools, now full of lilies. The site is reached down a long drive lined with mango trees. Now owned by the government,the harvest is auctioned off each year to the highest bidder. The ruins are located on the coast, around 4km north of Zanzibar Town, near Bububu.
Mtoni Palace was built for Sultan Said as his main residence. It is said that he spent three or four days here and split the remainder of the week among his many other plantations and palaces, but the Mtoni remained his favourite. His daughter Salme described it as nothing short of Eden, brimming with ﬂowers and peacocks. The Palace, at one time, had many ﬂights of stairs, courtyards, bedrooms and baths. Look in the back for many hallways and rooms with walls that still have the built-in alcoves.
KIDICHI PERSIAN BATHS
Kidichi Persian Baths, in the heart of the spice plantations, were built in 1850 by Sultan Said for his Persian wife, Sherehezade. The baths are unique on the island, with Persian detailing on the inner walls. They are unusual in that they exhibit interesting and obvious portrayals of birds and ﬂowers in the bas-relief detailing of the inner walls. In strict observance of the Muslim faith it is considered sacrilege to create images of anything living, including animals and people. To reach the baths, turn right at the police station at Bububu and continue up the road until the whitewashed baths appear at the top of the hill.
MANGAPWANI SLAVE CHAMBERS, AS THE NAME SUGGESTS, WERE BUILT FOR HOLDING SLAVES IN SECRECY
Kizimbani Baths are found on the road past the Kidichi baths. They are similar in style to the Kidichi Baths, but less ornate, with no Persian inscriptions, animals or ﬂowers depicted on the inner walls. The Kizimbani baths were built for Sultan Said at about the same time as the
MWANGAPWANI CORAL CAVE
Mangapwani Slave Chambers, as the name suggests, were built for holding slaves in secrecy. After the trade was banned in 1872, Arab dealers continued to transport slaves to the island and cut the chambers from coral rock to conceal them at night. The slaves were
chained and yoked while transferred from dhows to the chambers. There are few holes in the chambers and therefore little ventilation. This combined with malnutrition, thirst, disease, and
overcrowding caused the death of many slaves before they reached the market. Locals still believe that the cavern contains an outlet onto the beach (when the tide is right). A stairway leads down into the cave, but a ﬂashlight is needed to explore its dark, clammy interior.
There is not always a guide at the site and it is diffcult to fnd without one.
BI KHOLE RUINS
Bi Khole Ruins are the remains of an estate built for Bi Khole, one of Sultan Said’s daughters. The ruins of the house and Persian baths are reached by a road lined with mango trees. It is said that Khole planted one tree for each of her lovers. The ruins are in a beautiful setting overlooking the ocean and surrounded by felds and trees. Visitors can see the old courtyard and remains of the Persian baths and fountains.
These ruins are set in the ground of the Mbweni Ruins Hotel and are all that remains of St Mary’s School for Freed Slave Girls.
The school was built between 1871 and 1874 by missionaries inspired by David Livingstone’s famous 1867 lecture on the horrors of the slave trade. Slaves freed by the British from illegal dhow traders were brought to the mission, and at one point there was at least 250 freed slaves living there. Orphan girls and daughters of the freed slaves attended the school which provided training for them to become teachers at other missions on the mainland.
Dunga Palace was built around 1845 by King Mohammed bin Ahmed el Alawi, one of the last of a dynasty of Swahili kings with the hereditary title of Mwinyi Mkuu (Great Chieftan). The Mwinyi Wakuu were credited with ancient powers, and were alerted to danger by a set of magic drums which beat of their own accord when the kingdom was in peril. Despite successive domination by the Portuguese, Omani Arabs and the British, these traditional rulers continued to hold sway over the people of Zanzibar. The construction of the palace, an impressive two-storey structure set around a large courtyard, with a mosque, bathrooms and houses for retainers, took around ten years, using the unpaid labour of the local population.According to local legend, slaves were killed during its construction, and their blood mixed with mortar to strengthen the walls. In 1914, a well near the walls was cleared, uncovering human remains.Today there is little left of the original structure, aside from the main walls and a few passages and staircases which are said to be haunted. The magic drums are now safely stored at the Peace