Stone Town has the potential to be outstanding. The architecture is amazing, the doors alone are worth a visit. In Tanzania it is the first place I have seen with a real history (one stretching back centuries not decades) and yet I leave a little disappointed. We enjoyed our visit overall and none of this detracts from the overall positivity towards Zanzibar (Unguja) itself, but Stone Town is in need of repair. It’s not just a lick of paint (though that would help!), the buildings are crumbling, many of the door frames dishevelled (unpolished unpainted; graffiti strewn). The five main monuments we visited were the Anglican Cathedral, the Museum (Sultan’s Palace), the House of Wonders, the old Fort and the Persian Baths. Only the cathedral showed any sign of renovation; the Baths whilst interesting were very poorly maintained; the Fort was blackened and decaying; the Museum great inside but needing work to improve it’s overall appearance; following structural damage the House of Wonders was off limits officially but for a very high price (we did not pay!) you could go in.
In contrast the Prison Island complex was well maintained following investment from rich business men and the accompanying hotel.
It seems like decades if not centuries of neglect have left this World Heritage Site in a sorry state.
The town is being spruced up, but it’s hotels and cars that are getting repaired not the ancient heritage. This is sad as well as a little short sighted as the hotels in Stone Town will remain empty if there are no sights to see; people heading to the coast instead.
Here are some pictures from the town.
Anglican Cathedral / Site of Former Slave Market
Museum (Sultan’s Palace)
House of Wonders
Great Door but some was in ruin!
The Old Fort
The Persian Baths
I want to stress we really enjoyed visiting all these places but they need to be repaired otherwise they might soon be gone. They also need investment in terms of presentation and be attractively priced. The Cathedral got this right whilst Prison Island does not (we could not see half of it)