Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #17

Zanzibar Doors

Stone Town door, image from Zanzibar Stone Town Heritage Society

Zanzibar is famous for its heavy, intricately carved wooden doors. Those these doors are associated with Swahili culture and found across East Africa, the large number of them in Stone Town has given them the name "Zanzibar doors".

Doors were traditionally the first part of a new house to be built. And the bigger / the more elaborately carved the door, the greater the wealth and status of the house's owner.

Older doors reflect an Arab influence, with geometric designs. Doors dating from the late 19th century, however, reflect an Indian influence. Many doors are fitted with brass spikes, which may be a modification of the Indian practice of studding doors with iron spikes to fend off the attacks by war elephants. (Apparently, when Marco Polo visited Zanzibar in the 13th century, he wrote that the island had "elephant in plenty". Pity there are none left.)

The remaining doors in Stone Town date primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries and are maintained by the Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority.

Source: Zanzibar Stone Town Heritage Society; http://zanzibarstonetown.org/pages/stonetown_architecture.html

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