Stone Town, Zanzibar, experienced about 40 minutes of British bombardment in 1896.

Stone Town, Zanzibar (part of Tanzania), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, hosts an impressive mix of architectural styles. Much of its building stock dates back to the 19th century, when the town experienced a building boom after Sultan Said bin Sultan moved his seat from Muscat, Oman to Stone Town, helping to transform it into a trade hub (mostly for spices and slaves).

Zanzibar became a British protectorate in 1890, but when pro-British Sultan Hamad died on August 25, 1896, his nephew, 29 year-old Khalid bin Bargash (who was also suspected by some of Hamad's assassination) assumed power without British approval. His rebellion quickly led to the world's shortest war.


View Larger Map

On August 27, 1896, three British ships fired simultaneously at the Beit-al-Ajaib (or "House of Wonders") palace at 9 a.m. Around 9:40 a.m., shelling ceased, the palace consumed by fire and the Sultan's flag cut down. Sultan Khalid managed to escape but 500 Zanzibari men and women were either killed or wounded during the brief war, most as a result of the fire that consumed the palace. One British troop was wounded.

"The palace at Zanzibar Town after the Anglo-Zanzibar war" image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The masts of a sunken ship from the war can be seen in this panorama taken in 1902. The House of Wonders is the white building with a tower and many balconies in the middle of the photograph. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Eventually gaining independence from the British in 1963, Zanzibar is now a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania. As for Beit-al-Ajaib, it was rebuilt and remains Stone Town's tallest building. It's now used as a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Zanzibar and the Swahili coast.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of shoppers on University Avenue in East Palo Alto, California, which is flanked by two technology campuses.
    Equity

    An Island of Silicon Valley Affordability Says Yes to More Housing

    East Palo Alto is surrounded by tech riches, but that hasn’t necessarily helped longtime residents, who welcome a state law mandating zoning reform

  2. A young girl winces from the sting as she receives the polio vaccine in 1954.
    Life

    How Mandatory Vaccination Fueled the Anti-Vaxxer Movement

    To better understand the controversy over New York’s measles outbreak, you have to go back to the late 19th century.

  3. A crowded room of residents attend a local public forum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
    Life

    Are Local Politics As Polarized As National? Depends on the Issue.

    Republican or Democrat, even if we battle over national concerns, research finds that in local politics, it seems we can all just get along—most of the time.

  4. Electricians install solar panels on a roof for Arizona Public Service company in Goodyear, Arizona.
    Environment

    A Bottom-Line Case for the Green New Deal: The Jobs Pay More

    A Brookings report finds that jobs in the clean energy, efficiency, and environmental sectors offer higher salaries than the U.S. average.

  5. Life

    How to Inspire Girls to Become Carpenters and Electricians

    Male-dominated trades like construction, plumbing, and welding can offer job security and decent pay. A camp aims to show girls these careers are for them, too.