Museum sights in Zanzibar (Unguja)
- Sort by:
One of the most prominent buildings in the old Stone Town is the elegant Beit el-Ajaib, now home to the Zanzibar National Museum of History & Culture. It's also one of the largest structures in Zanzibar.
It was built in 1883 by Sultan Barghash (r 1870-88) as a ceremonial palace. In 1896 it was the target of a British naval bombardment, the object of which was to force Khalid bin Barghash, who had tried to seize the throne after the death of Sultan Hamad (r 1893-96), to abdicate in favour of a British nominee. After it was rebuilt, Sultan Hamoud (r 1902-11) used the upper floor as a residential palace until his death. Later it was used as the local political headquarters…
Just north of the Beit el-Ajaib is the palace, Beit el-Sahel, which served as the sultan's residence until 1964, when the dynasty was overthrown. Now it is a museum devoted to the era of the Zanzibar sultanate.
The ground floor displays details of the formative period of the sultanate from 1828 to 1870, during which commercial treaties were signed between Zanzibar and the USA (1833), Britain (1839), France (1844) and the Hanseatic Republics (1859). There is also memorabilia of Princess Salme, a Zanzibari princess who eloped with a German to Europe and later wrote an autobiography. The exhibits on the 2nd floor focus on the period of affluence from 1870 to 1896, during…
The larger of the two buildings that make up this museum previously contained a poorly presented history of the island from its early days until independence, while the smaller building across the road housed a decaying natural history collection. Both are in the process of being rehabilitated and merged with the Zanzibar National Museum of History & Culture at the Beit el-Ajaib, and are currently closed.