It’s like walking into a scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel. A bright blue swimming pool, with bright red chairs next to it, set against a plain white wall, while a classic gramophone player sits around the corner. This building has existed for almost five hundred years and has recently been restored using the same materials from all those years ago. Step into the past of Tanzania at Dhow Palace Hotel.
Idyllic hotel in Zanzibar
The idyllic hotel is located on the west coast of the island of Zanzibar. Dhow Palace gets its name from its location near the sea, which was once sailed by the iconic African dhow boats. Although the building has changed hands many times over the years, it seems as if time has stood still. How is that possible?
Almost five hundred years old
Sheikh Mushin bin Mujiba built and owned the property in 1559. The ‘palace’ remained within this family for more than three centuries, after which it changed hands in 1899 when it was acquired by the Barwani clan of the Somali coast. Leader of the group, Mushi Ali Barwani, rented out the building as housing and offices until 1927, after which it passed back into the hands of a Sheik: Masoud bin Mohammed Riyami. He, too, let the property up to the last tenant in 1964, after which the government took over the property. The building deteriorates due to poor maintenance and few residents. Until it changes hands for the last time in 1987: this time, the Muzammil family becomes the owner.
For over six years, Muzammil has been working on the restoration of Dhow Palace. An extra floor will be built on top of the building, but most of the time will be spent on the details of the renovation. The Muzzamils insist that everything be restored using the original materials that were used in the construction of the property five hundred years ago. Only a handful of people around the world still have the expertise to do that. But six years later, in 1993, the hotel opened its doors in its new, old glory.
Thirty rooms and a yellow roof hammam
Today the hotel has thirty rooms with wooden balconies surrounding the red and white courtyard. In that courtyard is the bright blue pool, which has a classic atmosphere. On the veranda you will find a gramophone player, a rustic piano, a model ship and a meters-high golden mirror surrounded by tropical plants. If you take the cast iron spiral staircase to the roof, you will discover a yellow/blue color sensation in the form of a beautiful open roof hammam. If you then cast your gaze into the distance, you will see and smell the briny sea full of its ships. If you look down again, you will see the second hidden courtyard of the hotel. A pentagonal orange fountain and three tables around it makes it the perfect place to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Discover the story of the Flipflopi, a dhow made of recycled plastic.
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