The crumbling architecture of Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the town’s carved doors are one of its most recognizable features.
I spent a lot of time searching for the door of Swahili merchant Tippu Tip, a notorious 19th-century slave and ivory trader who grew fabulously wealthy from his exploits in the interior of Africa.
He showcased his wealth by slapping Stone Town’s most elaborately carved door on the front of his mansion in the mysteriously named Suicide Alley.
If you can find Suicide Alley (it’s unmarked, near the Shangani Post Office in Stown Town), keep your eyes on the ground: the alternating black-and-white tiles of Tippu Tip’s front stoop might be the first thing you see.
The house is now inhabited by several families, so be respectful when taking pictures and exploring the area.
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Searching for Treasure in Stone Town
A visit to Stone Town would not be complete without a shopping trip. The town echoes with a grandiose atmosphere of a bygone era, the once perfectly decorated Arab mansions with grand balconies are chipped and peeled at the edges, and the extravagant crumbling coral stone buildings evoke a nostalgic feeling of a time when this town was saturated with wealth from the lucrative trade route.
Wind your way through its labyrinth of World Heritage listed streets, past the impressive and intricately carved Zanzibar and Gujarati wooden doors, stopping for an ice cream and taking in the fusion of European, Arabic, Swahili, and Indian architecture. Then stop at one of its myriad artisan and curio shops to peruse the delicately ornamented mahogany chests, decorative lamps, brass ornaments, exotic jewelry, and tribal carvings on offer.
The Memories of Zanzibar shop is a good a place to start, being centrally located behind the Africa House Hotel in Suicide Alley.