Stone Town's architecture
Zanzibar Travel Blog› entry 10 of 12 › view all entries
The most famous feature of Zanzibari architecture is the carved wooden door. There are more than 500 remaining today in Stone Town, many of which is older than the houses in which they are set. The door which was often the first part of a house to be built, served as a symbol of the wealth and status of a household. While older (Arabic) doors have a square frame with a geometrical shape, "newer" doors (built towards the end of the 19th century, Indian influences) often have semicircular tops and floral decorations.
Many doors are decorated with carvings of passages from the Quran. Other motifs include images representing items desired in the household, such as a fish ( expressing the hope for many children), chains (expressing the owner's wish for security) or the date tree 8a symbol of prosperity) The lotus motif signifies regeneration and reproductive power, while the stylised backwards "S" represents the smoke of frankincense and signifies wealth. Some doors have large brass spikes, which a tradition from I ndia, where spikes protected doors from being battered down by elephants.