Zanzibar was noted to be the largest and tallest landmark building in a stone town located between the Old Fort and the Palace Museum facing the Forodhani Gardens built for Barghash Bin Said, second Sultan of Zanzibar in the year 1883. Zanzibar Museum’s history and culture and the beautiful coast of Swahili is housed in this building. If there is any first building in Zanzibar built for or intended to be used as a ceremonial place and a hall for official reception and that matter, it was the building to be wired with electricity and having an elevator to make history as the first building in East Africa to have that, then it is the ”House of Wonders.”
Indeed, the place was designed by a British marine engineer who made it possible for Zanzibar to see a new face of architectural elements combined. The palace was used to testify modernity of the Sultan and elements in the palace. The door of the palace was made wide by the Sultan to make it possible for him to ride on an elephant through it. Seemingly, he intentionally chained up wild animals in front of the palace for a display. Genuinely speaking, in the House of Wonders, the main item of attraction is mtepe (a traditional Swahili boat) and it was visible at the top centre of the Karume’s car.
On August 27, 1896, during the Anglo-Zanzibar war, the lighthouse which was once in front of the palace building was damaged. This war as well wiped out the palace of Beit al-Hukum and seriously destroyed the palace of Beit al-Sahel as well. The damages the House of Wonders went through were just minor ones though to speak. When reconstruction took place in 1897, Beit al-Hukum was not renovated but its place was changed into a garden which gave the House of Wonders a visual representation.
After the bombardment, it was only the Sultan and his harem who had fully occupied the House of Wonders. It was then changed into government offices and from that transformation, the British governing authorities had a main secretariat from it in the year 1911. When they wanted Afro-Shirazi ruling to be achieved, they converted everything into a school and a museum after the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964. Inauguration of the house took place in the 2000s which has a lasting exhibits culture of Zanzibar and Swahili and that of the East African environment.
In 2012 and 2015, due to disrepair, a large sections of the roof and the veranda collapsed and as a result, the house was closed. The veranda collapsed in 2012 while the roof collapsed in 2015. This brought a threat to the rest of the buildings’ structure. Then quickly, they had moved the museum to another location. Just about a year ago in December 2020, the clock tower which formed part if its frontal facade got collapsed despite the fact that it is currently under a rehabilitation effort of 6 million shillings. It came as a shock and a great loss to Zanzibar’s since the palace formed part of the history of the region and that of a heritage to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
After the government of Oman had released the cost of 10 billion shillings on December 25, 2020, a mansion which had been restituted got collapsed trapping four of the workers inside and sadly, 2 workers died. Luckily, sketching and drawings have been done to reconstruct a similar building and hopefully, it shall be done as soon as possible.