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Stone Town of Zanzibar

Stone Town of Zanzibar

The Stone Town of Zanzibar is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture, which has brought together and homogenized disparate elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India, and Europe over more than a millennium.

La ville de pierre de Zanzibar

La Ville de pierre de Zanzibar est un magnifique exemple des villes marchandes côtières swahilies d'Afrique de l'Est. Elle a conservé un tissu et un paysage urbains quasiment intacts, et beaucoup de bâtiments superbes qui reflètent sa culture particulière, fusion d'éléments disparates des cultures africaines, arabes, indiennes et européennes sur plus d'un millénaire.

مدينة زنجبار الحجرية

تشكل مدينة زنجبار الحجرية نموذجاً رائعاً من المدن التجارية الساحلية السواحيلية في افريقيا الشرقية. وقد حافظت على نسيج ومنظر مدني لا يزالان على حالهما وعلى أبنية رائعة تروي ثقافتها المميزة القائمة على مزيج عناصر متفاوتة من الثقافة الافريقية والعربية والهندية والأوروبية امتد على أكثر من ألف سنة.

source: UNESCO/ERI

桑给巴尔石头城

在东非斯瓦希里沿岸的贸易城镇中,桑给巴尔石头镇是一个典型代表。它的城市结构和景观至今未变,包括许多反映它独特文化的精美建筑。这些建筑已有了上千年的历史,它们被建造在一起,从而使非洲、阿拉伯、印度、欧洲这些风格迥异的文化因素融为一体。

source: UNESCO/ERI

«Каменный город» в Занзибаре

«Каменный город» в Занзибаре – это прекрасный пример прибрежного торгового города народа суахили в Восточной Африке. Он сохранил свою городскую застройку и облик в почти нетронутом виде и имеет много прекрасных зданий, отражающих особенности этой цивилизации, которая в течение более чем тысячелетия вбирала в себя и объединяла элементы культур Африки, Арабского региона, Индии и Европы.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Ciudad de piedra de Zanzíbar

La ciudad de piedra de Zanzíbar es un magnífico ejemplo de las ciudades comerciales swahilíes del litoral del África Oriental. Ha conservado su tejido y paisaje urbanos prácticamente intactos, así como muchos edificios soberbios que ponen de manifiesto la peculiar cultura de la región, en la que se han fundido y homogeneizado a lo largo de más de un milenio elementos muy diversos de las civilizaciones de África, Arabia, la India y Europa.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ザンジバル島のストーン・タウン
ザンジバルのストーン・タウンは東アフリカのスワヒリ族の海岸交易都市の様子をよく表している。都市構造や都市の景観は実際、人に荒らされておらず、その独特な文化を反映しており、1,000年以上に及ぶアフリカ、アラビア、インド、そしてヨーロッパの文化の異なる要素がまじわり、調和している。

source: NFUAJ

Stenen stad Zanzibar

De Stenen stad Zanzibar is een mooi voorbeeld van een Swahili-handelsstad. De heersende islamitische dynastie en aanwezige buitenlandse kooplieden werden erg welvarend en verrijkten de stenen stad met paleizen en fraaie herenhuizen. Deze hadden een verscheidenheid van stijlen en tradities, maar werden samengevoegd en gehomogeniseerd tot de karakteristieke Swahili-architectuur. In de 19e eeuw werd deze Swahili-traditie overweldigd door nieuwe stijlen, onder andere de Minaret Moskee dateert uit deze periode. Zanzibar is van grote symbolische betekenis voor de bestrijding van de slavernij. Het was een van de belangrijkste slavenhandelhavens in Oost-Afrika, maar ook de basis van waaruit tegenstanders, zoals David Livingstone, hun campagne voerden.

Source: unesco.nl

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Stone Town - Former Ishnashri Dispensary © UNESCO
Statement of Significance

Criterion ii : The Stone Town of Zanzibar is an outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization.

Criterion iii : For many centuries there was intense seaborne trading activity between Asia and Africa, and this is illustrated in an exceptional manner by the architecture and urban structure of the Stone Town.

Criterion vi : Zanzibar has great symbolic importance in the suppression of slavery, since it was one of the main slave-trading ports in East Africa and also the base from which its opponents such as David Livingstone conducted their campaign.

Long Description

For many centuries there was intense seaborne trading activity between Asia and Africa, and this is illustrated admirably by the architecture and urban structure of the Stone Town. Zanzibar also has great symbolic importance in the suppression of slavery because it was one of the main slave-trading ports in East Africa, as well as the base from which its opponents such as David Livingstone conducted their campaign.

Two major cultural traditions merged to form the Swahili civilization on the East African coast. A series of harbour towns developed under influences from the interior of Africa and from the lands across the Indian Ocean. There was a loose confederation of small coastal city states known as the Zenj bar (Black Empire) which operated in the 8th-10th centuries. The best preserved of these towns is Zanzibar, the name of which is derived from the Perso-Arabic word meaning 'the coast of the blacks.'

The Swahili economy was destabilized with the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century. A church and some merchants' houses were built at Zanzibar, built from simple wattle-and-daub thatched with palm leaves since the 10th century. The Portuguese later added a massive fort on the sea front.

The slave trade, started by the Portuguese, assumed large proportions in the 18th century, when they were required in large numbers for the French sugar plantations in the islands of the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean.

The ruling Islamic dynasty of Zanzibar and its foreign merchants became very rich and embellished the Stone Town with palaces and fine mansions. These were built in a variety of styles and traditions, which were amalgamated and homogenized into a characteristic Swahili architecture. In the 19th century, this Swahili tradition was overwhelmed by new styles brought in by the floods of immigrants: the Minaret Mosque dates from this period. The Omanis introduced a completely different tradition, that of massively built multistorey blocks in mortared coral and with flat roofs. The third architectural component came from India, adding wide verandas, but by the latter half of the 19th century they were constructing elaborately decorated houses reminiscent of the Gujarati haveli.

Modern urban development may be deemed to have begun during the reign of Sultan Barghash (1870-88). His most notable contribution to the architecture of the Stone Town was the House of Wonders, but his greatest legacy was the provision of piped water to the town. The final phase of architectural development came with the arrival of the British in 1890, when Zanzibar became a British protectorate. They imported their colonial architecture but, under the influence of the architect John Sinclair, introduced a number of features derived from the Islamic architecture of Istanbul and Morocco. The last quarter of the 19th century saw increased European missionary activity, resulting in the construction of Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, in the Gothic and Romanesque styles respectively. The Arab ascendancy came to an end with the 1964 revolution and the creation of the United Republic of Tanzania. New constructions built from 1960 to 1970 introduced contemporary styles and materials that were out of harmony with the historic fabric.

The historical evolution of the Stone Town is illustrated by the street pattern. This is one of narrow winding streets resulting from the unplanned building of houses and shops. There are few public open spaces, as many of the houses have their own enclosed spaces. The principal construction material is coralline rag stone set in a thick lime mortar and then plastered and lime-washed.

The vernacular architecture is preponderantly of two-storey buildings with long narrow rooms disposed round an open courtyard, reached through a narrow corridor.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

Two major cultural traditions merge to form the Swahili civilization on the East African coast. A series of harbour towns developed under influences from the interior of Africa and from the lands across the Indian Ocean. There was a loose confederation of small coastal city states known as the Zenj bar (Black Empire) which operated in the 8th-10th centuries. The best preserved of these towns is Zanzibar, the name of which is derived from the Perso-Arabic word meaning "the coast of the blacks."

The earliest of these towns has been excavated at Unguja Ukuu on Zanzibar Island, where 5th century CE Roman and Sassanian-Islamic pottery has been found. Nearby is the early 12th century mosque at Kizimkazi. These are among the many sites that have produced evidence of the existence in the 8th-15th centuries of an extensive and highly developed civilization that probably reached its apogee at Kilwa in the 14th century.

The Swahili economy was destabilized with the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century. Following Vasco de Gama's visit in 1499 on his return from India, the Portuguese established a loose suzerainty over the Swahili coast as part of their trading activities. They were forced to settle it permanently when they were challenged by the Turks and later by rival European powers. A church and some merchants' houses were built at Zanzibar, where there had been a fishing village (Shangani) of simple wattle-and-daub houses thatched with palm leaves since the 10th century. They later added a massive fort on the sea front. However, Portuguese influence was limited, and came to an end at the end of the 17th century, when they were driven out of Fort Jesus at Mombasa.

The Portuguese trading role was gradually taken over by Omani Arabs, dealing in grain, dried fish, ivory, and slaves. The Omani ruler, Seyyid Said, made it the capital of his domain. There was a great increase in the number of buildings in stone, a technique ultimately deriving from the Shirazis of Persia via the great trading centre of Kilwa.

The slave trade did not assume large proportions until the later 18th century, when they were required in large numbers for the French sugar plantations in the islands of the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Dislocation of the slave trade as a result of wars between the English and the French in the early 19th century led to a substantial proportion of them being used in the clove plantations on Zanzibar Island.

The 19th century also saw a great expansion in trade in the Indian Ocean region. The ruling Islamic dynasty of Zanzibar and its merchants (Indian, Swahili, Arab, and Africans from the interior) became very rich and embellished the Stone Town with palaces and fine mansions. These were built in a variety of styles and traditions, which were amalgamated and homogenized into a characteristic Swahili architecture.

The earliest phase developed after the departure of the Portuguese, when the ruler, Mwinyi Mkuu Hasan, cleared the land on the peninsula beyond his palace. It was settled by Swahili immigrants from other parts of the coast and by Arabs from the Hadhramaut, who built residences in an indigenous style. The Minaret Mosque dates from this period.

In the 19th century this Swahili tradition was overwhelmed by new styles brought in by the floods of immigrants. It was at this time that the so-called "Swahili house" emerged, based on the earlier style but with imported details and techniques.

The Omanis introduced a completely different tradition, that of massively built multi-storey blocks built in mortared coral and with flat roofs. However, the wet climate of Zanzibar resulted in these roofs being quickly replaced by pitched roofs of corrugated iron or tiles. They were plain in appearance, the only striking external feature being the elaborately carved wooden doors. By contrast, the interiors were richly decorated and furnished.

The third architectural component came from India. The Indian traders began by buying Omani houses and adding wide verandahs, but by the latter half of the 19th century they were constructing elaborately decorated houses reminiscent of the Gujarati haveli. However, the characteristic Indian house had a shop on the street frontage, with living quarters in the rear. As the owners became more affluent, they often added a second storey, the residential section being entirely on the upper floor and the lower confined to commercial activities.

Modern urban development may be deemed to have begun during the reign of Sultan Barghash (1870-88). He had been impressed by the towns of India during his exile there in 1860 and those of Europe in 1875, and he sought to emulate them. His most notable contribution to the architecture of the Stone Town was the House of Wonders, but his greatest legacy was the provision of piped water to the town.

The final phase of architectural development came with the arrival of the British in 1890, when Zanzibar became a British protectorate. They imported their colonial architecture but, under the influence of the architect John Sinclair, introduced a number of features derived from the Islamic architecture of Istanbul and Morocco. The British introduced strict building regulations and expanded the public services. Urban planning measures were promulgated from the 1920s onwards.

The last quarter of the 19th century saw increased European missionary activity, resulting in the construction of Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, in the Gothic and Romanesque styles respectively. The Anglican cathedral was inspired by David Livingstone and built on the site of the last slave market, the slave trade having been brought to an end by the British.

The Arab ascendancy came to an end with the 1964 revolution and the creation of the United Republic of Tanzania. It led to many profound social and economic changes. Many of the wealthiest Arab and Indian merchants and craftsmen left the country, abandoning their fine houses and commercial buildings. Immigrants from rural areas and the neighbouring island of Pemba were settled by the government in these buildings, which deteriorated as a result of lack of maintenance. New construction in the Stone Town came to an end in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when development was concentrated in the expansion areas. In the 1980s building began again, introducing contemporary styles and materials that were out of harmony with the historic fabric. Only since the creation of the Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority in 1985 has any form of coordination of building been exercised.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation