This mag­nif­i­cen­tis­land off the coastof Tanz ania changed for the w orse w hen it­los­tits favou rite princess to for­bid­den love

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - NEWS - By Ami­tava Chau dhu ri

P rincess Nafiza looked out of th e win­dow of th e fort in Stone Town, Zanz­ibar. Born to a con­cu­bine, sh e was th e favourite daugh ter of th e Sul­tan of Zanz­ibar, ac­tive, in­tel­li­gent and pop­u­lar in th e royal h ouseh old. Th e sunny m orn­ing, th e beau­ti­ful sil­ver sands and blue wa­ters of th e Ara­bian Sea beck­oned h er. “Let’s go rid­ing,” sh e called out to h er com pan­ions as sh e left th e fort on h er favourite h orse.


Zanz­ibar is th e m ain is­land in th e Ara­bian Sea close to th e African m ain­land in Tan­za­nia. It h as end­less sil­ver sand beach es, calm blue seas, h is­toric arch itec­ture, friendly peo­ple and a past as­so­ci­ated with wealth , greed, cru­elty, sul­tans, princes and princesses.

Inh abited for around 20,000 years, it h as been ruled down th e ages by out­siders – in th e 7th cen­tury BC by Sabeans of th e Sem itic civil­i­sa­tion of Sh eba of Yem en, and th en suc­ces­sively by th e Per­sians, Por­tuguese, Arab and th e Bri­tish . As th e m ain port of East Africa, it traded in gold, ivory, frank­in­cense, ebony, tur­tle sh ells, silks, spices, corals, weapons and slaves.

Th e Per­sians ar­rived in th e 12th cen­tury. Th ey brough t with th em th eir th ough ts and cul­ture and built th e Zoroas­trian fire tem ples of Zanz­ibar, th e first in Africa. Th e Por­tuguese re­placed th e Per­sians and ruled from 1498. Wh en th e Por­tuguese could not be tol­er­ated any longer, th e Zanz­ibari Africans took th e h elp of th e Sul­tan of Om an and overth rew th em in 1698.

Zanz­ibar th en be­cam e an Om ani sul­tanate. Th e old fort of Zanz­ibar was built. Plan­ta­tions of cloves, ginger, pep­per, car­dam om and vanilla were set up and Zanz­ibar be­cam e known as th e ‘Spice Is­land’. Busi­ness boom ed and a new Arab-African cul­ture grew up, and from it a new lan­guage – th e Kiswah ili, wh ich is to­day a m ajor lan­guage of East Africa. Th e Om ani sul­tans liked th eir life so m uch th at th ey aban­doned Muscat to set­tle in Zanz­ibar.


Th e Stone Town is a clus­ter of build­ings, roads and al­ley­ways in th e older part of Zanz­ibar. Th e nam e orig­i­nates from th e use of red­dish co­ral stone as th e m ain con­struc­tion m ate­rial for h ouses. With nar­row al­leys lined by h ouses, sh ops, bazaars and m os­ques, its arch itec­ture is a com - bi­na­tion of Arab, Per­sian, In­dian, Euro­pean and African styles. It is a little like Dariba Kalan of old Delh i, or parts of old Jerusalem .

To keep th eir in­te­ri­ors breezy and th eir ap­pear­ance m ajes­tic, th e h ouses h ave ex­ten­sive bal­conies, em bel­lish m ents, win­dows with sh ut­ter

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