Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Zanzibar doors

I wrote about Zanzibar doors back in 2016 ... and I don't think I understood just how prevalent these intricately carved doors are in Stone Town, and how much pleasure I got from seeing them. And to be clear, these doors aren't just on preserved houses, or on museums -- these doors are still used and locked every day.

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.

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger versions of these images.

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