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Destination Details

Zanzibar
Tags : Mtoni Palace

Just north of Maruhubi is the ruined Mtoni Palace, which was built for Sultan Said (sultan from 1804 to 1856) on the site of an older house believed to have belonged to Saleh bin Haramil, the Arab trader who imported the first cloves to Zanzibar. Mtoni, which means 'place by the river', is the oldest palace on Zanzibar. One of Sultan Said's daughters, Salme, later eloped with a German trader who lived and worked in Zanzibar in the 1860s. In her book about her life on Zanzibar. Salme describes Mtoni Palace in the 1850s: it had a large courtyard where gazelles, peacocks, ostriches and flamingos wandered around, a large bath-house at one end and the sultan's quarters at the other, where he lived with his principal wife, an Omani princess whose name was Azze.

Salme records that over 1,000 people were attached to the sultan's court in the palace. She describes how the sultan would pace up and down on a large round tower overlooking the sea, where he could see his fleet anchored off the shore. If visitors came by boat, he would greet them on the steps of his palace as there was no landing pier. Salme and the other princesses were carried out to their boats on chairs. Salme goes on to describe her own return visit to Zanzibar in 1885. The palace at Mtoni had been abandoned and was already in ruins. Today, only the main walls and parts of the roof remain. The palace was turned into a warehouse during World War I, and evidence of the alterations can still be seen.

To reach the palace, turn left off the main road onto a dirt track, about 2km north of Maruhubi. There is a small signpost.

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