Zanzibar Minister for Lands, Water and Energy, Salama Aboud Talib told the House of Representatives here yesterday that the restoration of the iconic Stone Town building also known as the Palace of Wonder has been approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which also provided guidelines to be followed.
The representatives wanted the Minister to explain progress of the reconstruction works to the Zanzibar historical landmark. She said most requirements for the project have been acquired, including funding provided by the Sultanate of Oman.
The building features among UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
“Hon Speaker, I like to inform Members of the House that preparations for the restoration of ‘Ngome Kongwe’ are in the final stages of completion and the work will start soon,” she said.
Conditions given by UNESCO include the provision of not altering the structure’s original plan and appearance, the minister noted.
Beit-al-Jaib, associated with other historical buildings in Zanzibar Stone Town, was built in 1883 during the reign of Sultan Barghash ibn Said.
The government of Oman has allocated 10bn/- for major renovations to the structure in order restore it to its original past as the principal landmark of Zanzibar Stone Town.
It was intended as a ceremonial palace and official reception hall, celebrating modernity, and it was named House of Wonders because it was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity, and also the first building in East Africa to have an elevator.
It is the largest and tallest building of Stone Town and occupies a prominent place facing the Forodhani Gardens on the old town seafront. It is located between the Old Fort and the Palace Museum.
Its enormous carved doors are believed to be the largest in East Africa. Inside, the National Museum of History and Culture has exhibits on Swahili civilisation and the peoples of the Indian Ocean.