Built in 1883 it was once the ceremonial palace for Sultan Barghash. Spacious verandahs supported by columns surround this very large, four-storied building with a highly visible clock tower. A large roofed courtyard in the centre is surrounded by open galleries. Large wooden staircases wind up along the inner walls. On each floor are four giant carved wooden doors, some of which have inscriptions from the Koran. On order of Sultan Barghash the huge carved main door was made wide enough so that he could easily ride an elephant through. The upper balcony surrounds the entire building and offers great views onto the ocean and Stone Town. The locals named the palace Beit-al-Ajaib, meaning the House of Wonders, because it was the first house with electrical lights and even an electrical elevator in Zanzibar, built in 1913 by the British. Still today, it is one of the largest buildings in Zanzibar.
During the Anglo-Zanzibar-War in 1896 the palace was slightly damaged by a British bombardment in an attempt to overthrow Sultan Barghash, who claimed the thrown after the death of Sultan Hamad. After reconstruction, Sultan Hamoud used the upper floor as a residential palace during his reign from 1902 to 1911. Later on the building was used as government offices and after the Zanzibar Revolution as a school. Today the house is open for tourists as the Museum of History and Culture of Zanzibar & the Swahili Coast. The entrance fee is USD 3 per person.
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