Appreciating the Decorative Doors of Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania


The city of Stonetown, Zanzibar is a walled city of significant East African significance as a result of it’s involvement in the 19th Century Slave Trade throughout the region. It’s architecture offers a mix of Swahili, Arab, Indian and Persian elements. For this reason, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000. Our day would allow us to spend some time walking through the city to understand it’s historic elements.

This post is one chapter on our trip to the Republic of Tanzania and the Islands of the Seychelles. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and enhanced through World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Appreciating the Decorative Doors of Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania

For the afternoon, we decided to talk a walking tour around and about. Stonetown, Zanzibar is a bit of a tough place to self guide as a tourist. There are lots of interesting features that aren’t easily marked. We ended up booking a 3 hour walking tour through The Park Hyatt Zanzibar hotel for about $60 USD. We ended up getting a lot of value out of the walking tour and I’d recommend it for anyone coming through Stonetown.

Walking the Alleys of Stonetown, Zanzibar:

We started our tour right next door at the Zanzibar Serena Hotel. We had an overview of the hotel which was previously an omani master’s house.

The Zanzibar Serena Hotel
The Lobby of the Zanzibar Serena Hotel

We passed through the back alleys, including a Tangazo joibi tree for cosmetics and face creams.

Walking the Alleys
A Tangazo Joibi Tree

The Dhow Palace Hotel:

We wandered through to The Dhow Palace Hotel. The Dhow Palace Hotel was known as one of the first hotels in Zanzibar. It had a very nice pool and atrium. It also had one of our very first orate doors we had the pleasure of looking at that Zanzibar is well known for.

The Doorways of St George’s Cathedral, Stonetown:

We then headed over through various alley ways and intricate door ways to St George’s Cathedral, the only catholic church in Stonetown. It wasn’t open for viewing on our visit today. It was reported to be open for catholic mass on Sunday’s but never was on the Sunday during our visit. As a result, there are no inside photographs of this particular aged beauty.

The Doorways of St George’s Catherdral
The Intricate Doorways of the St Georges Catherdral

Understanding the Local’s at Jaws’ Corner:

We then headed over to Jaws’ Corner and had a detailed explanation of it’s local significance. Jaw’s Corner is a five-way corner that was the cross roads of this particular neighbourhood.

Walking to Jaws’ Corner

It was used as a meeting place and had a blackboard (pictured) for communicating the town news. Local residence would announce births, marriages and other important news. For some reason, it even offered free international phone calls (also pictured). It also appeared to be a general hang out place.

The Locals Blackboard at Jaws Corner
The Locals at Jaws’ Corner
Make Free International Calls here – Jaws’ Corner, Zanzibar

Just adjacent to Jaws’ Corner, we past the most intricate doors of our Stonetown visit. These ones had birds and cats in them.

Delicate Doors Around Stonetown
Fruits and Leaves Mark this Doorway
Eagles and Leopard Cats Mark this Doorway

We had an explanation of overall tolerance of Zanzibar society with mosque and Anglican cathedral built right next to each other.


Heading to the Local Market:

We headed onwards to a local supermarket stop with an explanation of the products for sale. Bridal parties were described as typically coming to get the houseware gifts after the marriage. The X are a coconut cutter that you sit on and core your coconuts.

Heading Down the Alley to the Local Market
Local Housewares available for sale

My Thoughts on a Walking Tour through Stonetown:

Stonetown is an intricate place to visit that’s surrounded by local merchants, alleyways and a variety of sights and sounds. Since it is a local’s city, there is a definite advantage to getting a local guide that is able to explain the meaning of things since most of the city is unmarked . Our guide from the The Park Hyatt Zanzibar was able to explain the attractions and allow us to make the most of our time in this interesting town.

If you’ve visited Stonetown, Zanzibar, did you do a self guided tour or did you hire yourself a guide ?

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