May 12, 2017

1374, 3048 TANZANIA - Stone Town of Zanzibar (UNESCO WHS)

3048 Old Fort of Zanzibar

Posted on 24.12.2014, 12.05.2017
Zanzibar (name originated from the Perso-Arabic word meaning "the coast of the blacks") is the semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago, 25-50 km off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar) and Pemba. Its capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja, which comprises two main parts, Stone Town and Ng'ambo.

1374 The wooden doors of Zanzibar

Stone Town, also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili for "old town"), is the historical core of the city, former capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate, a flourishing centre of the spice trade as well as the slave trade in the 19th century. It is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa, and its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture, a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For many centuries there was intense seaborne trading activity between Asia and Africa, and this is illustrated by the architecture and urban structure of the Stone Town.

Two major cultural traditions merged to form the Swahili civilization on the East African coast, a series of harbour towns developing under influences from the interior of Africa and from the lands across the Indian Ocean. In the 8th-10th centuries there was a confederation of small coastal city states, known as the Zenj bar (Black Empire). The Swahili economy was destabilized with the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century. The slave trade assumed large proportions in the 18th century, and the ruling Islamic dynasty became very rich and embellished the Stone Town with palaces and fine mansions.

At the beginning of the 19th century new styles were brought by the immigrants, and in 1840 Sultan Said bin Sultan moved his capital from Muscat to Stone Town, which entered in an era of quick development. The third architectural component came from India, adding wide verandas, and in the latter half of the century were constructed elaborately decorated houses reminiscent of the Gujarati haveli. Modern urban development started during the reign of Sultan Barghash (1870-1888), and its final phase came with the arrival of the British in 1890.

They imported their colonial architecture but, under the influence of the architect John Sinclair, introduced a number of features derived from the Islamic architecture. The last quarter of the 19th century saw increased European missionary activity, resulting in the construction of the cathedrals, in the Gothic and Romanesque styles. The Arab ascendancy came to an end with the 1964 revolution and the creation of Tanzania, by the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The heart of Stone Town mostly consists of a maze of narrow alleys lined by houses, shops, bazaars and mosques.

The seafront has wider streets and larger, more regularly placed buildings. Its name comes from the ubiquitous use of coral stone as the main construction material; this stone gives the town a characteristic, reddish warm colour. Traditional buildings have a baraza, a long stone bench along the outside walls, used to sit down, rest, socialize. Another key feature of most buildings is large verandas protected by carved wooden balustrades.

The most well-known feature of Zanzibari houses are the finely decorated wooden doors, with rich carvings and bas-reliefs, sometimes with big brass studs of Indian tradition. Two main types of doors can be distinguished: those of Indian style have rounded tops, while those in the Omani Arab style are rectangular. Carvings are often Islamic in content (for example, many consist of verses of the Qur'an), but other symbolism is occasionally used, e.g., Indian lotus flowers as emblems of prosperity.

The Old Fort (Ngome Kongwe in Swahili) is a heavy stone fortress that was built in late 17th century by the Omanis. Also known as the Omani fort it was built by the early rulers to protect the city from European invasions. It has a roughly square shape and the internal courtyard is now a cultural centre with shops, workshops, and a small arena where live dance and music shows are held daily. The fort location is also used for the Zanzibar International Film Festival.[21]

About the stamp
On the postcard 1374
The stamp is part of the series Marine Life, issued on March 25, 2014.

On the postcard 3048
The stamp is part of the series Tourist Attractions, about which I wrote here.

Stone Town - Wikipedia
Stone Town of Zanzibar - UNESCO official website
Old Fort of Zanzibar - Wikipedia

Sender 1374: Soni / Kipepeo
Sent from Dar es Salaam (Dar es Salaam / Tanzania), on 26.10.2014
Sender 3048: Ahmed Abbas Maswood (direct swap)
Sent from Dar es Salaam (Dar es Salaam / Tanzania), on 27.04.2017
Photo: Javed Jafferji 

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