Geoparks Africa
World Heritage Sites

UNESCO takes part in Restoration of the Beit Al Ajaib Monument in Zanzibar

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Center is being fully involved in the project aimed at restoring the historical ‘House of Wonders,’ in the Old Stone Town of Unguja.

Oman has been granted the tender to restore the Beit Al Ajaib the 140 years’ old building which is a historical monument found at the shores of the Old Stone Town of Unguja, in the Zanzibar Islands.

Known as the ‘House of Wonders,’ the legendary historical building suffered partial collapse of its walls in 2020 possibly due to age.

A report published in the Tanzania Times, reveals that the Zanzibar Government is now planning to restore the property back to its original form and shape.

The tender for the restoration work was awarded in the presence of Salem bin Muhammad Al Mahrouqi, the Oman Minister of Heritage and Tourism.

In attendance were the Consul General of the Sultanate of Oman in Zanzibar, and the Ambassador of the Republic of Tanzania accredited to the Sultanate Oman and Secretary of the National Commission for Education, Culture and Science.

The agreement to that effect was signed by Engineer Ibrahim bin Saeed Al Kharusi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism for Heritage, together with Semay Saeed, Minister of Tourism and Heritage in Zanzibar.

Following the partial collapse of The House of Wonders or the Beit Al Ajaib in 2020, it was decided to reformulate the scope of work, in coordination with the government of Zanzibar.

The proposed project is being undertaken in consultation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Center.

It involves carrying out consolidation work and prepares the new scope of work, which includes reconstruction, as well as restoration and rehabilitation.

The House of Wonders in old days

The House of Wonders in the Stone Town in Zanzibar is one of the most important historical monuments in Eastern Africa.

Beit Al Ajaib is also the most prominent icon due to its distinctive architectural and aesthetic elements; it is a testament to the effects of Omani presence on the archipelago since the late nineteenth century.

It was built by Sultan Barghash bin Said in the year 1883 and served as the official reception palace.

The House of Wonders was also the hall for celebrations and was named the ‘House of Wonders’ due to its bright light effects.

It was the first building in Zanzibar to be installed with electricity and became the symbol of advanced technology and civilization in Africa.

Essentially it was also the first place to have electricity in East Africa as well as being the first ever building to have an electric elevator in East and Central African Region.

Now project planning for its restoration includes reconstruction and utilization of the same traditional materials that were used in the building.

This will be based on the directives and guiding principles of the World Heritage and its advisory bodies.

It will also be a joint cultural centre that reviews the common history and promotes interdependence in cultural, social, economic and tourism fields.