Antique photo German soldier riding a zebra
Antique photo German soldier riding a zebra

Zanzibar is an island located before the East coast of Africa. For more details on this website select BACKGROUND in the top bar of this web-page. The main focus of this web-page is on the Omani Arabs in Zanzibar and East Africa during the 19th century. Zanzibar was a colony of Oman for a long period. The Omani went to East Africa for many centuries because there were a lot of goods for sale they were interested in and in the right monsoon season the trade-winds blew their dhows from Oman to Zanzibar and back again  in another monsoon season. In 1856 the British used a "divide and rule" tactic to exploit a succession conflict after the death of Said bin Sultan that resulted in a split between Oman and Zanzibar and a gradual decline of the prosperity of Oman that lasted until 1970. During the late 19th century the Germans took over control of the East African mainland from the Omani. At the same time it were the Germans who took a serious interest in Omani culture resulting in many photographs and  several books in German (e.g. memoirs of  Tippu Tip and Bibi Salme) Also many scientific articles relating to the  languages spoken in East Africa  (Swahili and Arabic spoken by the Omani ) were published. Even some Omani texts  were translated into German (e.g. a chronicle about the war between Nachal and Wad il Ma´awil by Walter Rossler 1898) It is estimated that around 100.000 people lived on Zanzibar in 1890.

Unless specified these photos are all original items in our collection. The objective of our website is to put the different objects in their historic context.

Antique photo Taria Topan and Navy officers

Navy officers & Omani official  including the Indian Tharia Topan tax-collector in Zanzibar (frontow right). The young Omani official front-row left could be Hamad bin Thuwaini  (born 1857), who became sultan in 1893 but we are not sure. 

Antique Photo Zanzibar: Veiled Arab women Zanzibar Gomes & Co  taken 1890's

Veiled Omani women in Zanzibar (Gomes & Co approx 1895)

Antique Photo Zanzibar

Omani women in Zanzibar, latest fashion (Gomes & Co approx 1895)

Some  highlights in this web-page are:

  • The two 1870´s "rooftop" panorama photos of the Old Fort and Stonetown in Zanzibar (probably  taken by John Kirk from the lighthouse or a ships-mast)
  • Photo of some British naval and diplomatic staff plus some Omani officials including Tharia Topan
  • The large (over 1 meter long) panorama of the Zanzibar stone-town seafront
  • Some photos of Sultans of Zanzibar
  • A fine large photo of Tippu-Tip (diplomat, ivory and slave-trader) has been listed under the Slavery section and a clipped version is shown on the right-hand side of all our web-pages!
  • Photo of three armed men in Omani costume from Bagamoyo, with in the middle probably Ismael the Wali of Winti.
  • Photo of the Belgian Nicolas Toback in Omani costume, he was the eccentric envoy of King Leopold in the Congo.
  • A fine collection of early postcards of Zanzibar.
  • Some German glass negatives from around 1890 with a German soldier riding a zebra and a photographer between  East African tribesmen.
  • Collection of 50 loose photographs (by J. Sturtz) fixed on contemporary carton with the title "Erinnerung an die Ostafrikanische Blockade und  meiner Reise an bord SMS Carola 1888-1890" that belonged to  Emil Voelker who was on-board the SMS Carola during these events. (variants of these photos were used for the book Land und Leute in Ost Afrika by Wangemann.

Antique photo Zanzibar Omani men Bagamoyo

Photo taken before 1890: Three armed Omani men from Bagamoyo

The man in the middle is probably Ismael the Liwali of Windi

Manuscript Letter sent by Said Bin Sultan ruler of Oman and Zanzibar not long before his death in 1856 from Muscat.

Letter Said bin Sultan 1855.
 Translating these calligraphic Arabic letters is always a challenge. The letter is translated as:
Top right, the name of the Sender: Said Bin Sultan
Top left: Name person to who the letter is addressed: al-Sayfi Asul ?
May God also protect him from evil and the conspiracies of licentious people, storms of ……. and reptiles of danger [Amin]. Your kind letter was received and your beloved understood what you stated therein and pleased for your safety. On expressing the thanks towards the son Majid, it actually shows the love of you, and we assume that after 2 months in sha allah we will be coming to you. This is for you to know and if there is anything that you may want before the meeting, please let us know. Salaam. Done on the 28th of Mahram 1272


Said Bin Sultan died a year after this letter. On the back of the letter is the stamp/ Tughra of Said bin Sultan. The three wax seals on the envelope also contain his Thugra. Date given in Arabic on the bottom letter is 1272 AH while on the address in a  European language is written 1855. "13 Dacle "55" on the address may possibly  refer to the 13-th day of the 11  month of the Islamic calender (Dhu-al-qada), but not sure. The letter confirms that a letter was received and wishes the recipient Peace and happiness. The recipient of the letter could not yet be identified.

Thugra Said Bin Sultan

Tughra of Said Bin Sultan

 The main parts of the empire of Said Bin Sultan were Oman and East Africa. After the "merchant Sultan" had moved his capital from Oman to Zanzibar, he went every 3 or 4 years to Oman to ensure control. The Sultan's eldest son was caretaker of Oman when he was not present. The Sultan's family was also spread between Oman and Zanzibar. According to his daughter Bibi Salme in her memoirs, the family members in the poorer Oman had a much more modest life style compared to the more glamorous lifestyle of the family members on Zanzibar, however the Omani family members considered themselves superior to their African relatives. The Sultan's children on Zanzibar were from Suri 's (slave wives) from Circassia and Ethiopia. After the death of Said bin Sultan his eldest sons could not agree on his succession and with help of the British the prosperous Zanzibar and poorer Oman became separate Sultanates, starting a gradual decline of the prosperity of Oman until 1970. See the above slide-show for a photo of the address on the letter. The Sultan died at sea in 1856

The rare Biography of Said Bin Sultan was written by his grandson Rudolph Said Ruete, the son of Bibi Salme / Emily Ruete.

The book Memoirs of an Arabian Princess by his daughter Bibi Salme contains unique information about life at the Sultan's court in Zanzibar.

In the export section we have a plate that was given as part of the contents of the ship Prince Regent by the King of England to Said Bin Sultan. The ship was a return present by the King, as Said bin Sultan had previously given the ship Liverpool to the King.

Have requested assistance for the proper translation of the letter and it's address.

The letter from Said bin Sultan

The envelope

Lacquer seals with the Sultan's Tughra impressed


  1. Said bin Sultan (1791-1856) Ruler of Oman and Zanzibar. His place in history of Arabia and East Africa by Rudolph Said-Ruete , London Alexander Ousely 1929  After page 128 you find an  facsimile of a letter by Said bin Sultan
  2. Bibi Salme / Emily Ruete, Memoiren einer Arabischen Prinzessin 1886
  3. Joseph B.F. Osgood Notes of Travel or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, muscat, Aden, Mocha and other Eastern ports Salem 1854 page 60 describes the sultan as follows: "His general appearance is made prepossessing by a tall and erect figure, bright and piercing eyes, and an attractive smile, which frequently lights up his truly Arab countenance, to which a long white beard gives a venerable look. Though he is one of the handsomest men living, the several artists who at different times have visited Zanzibar have in vain solicited him to sit for his portrait. The Koran forbits him to encourage the making of images and pictures representing living beings, and he strictly complies with this precept, as well as another too commonly disregarded, that men should not wear jewellery of gold and silver. He therefore wears no jewelry upon his person, and a prudent economy is observable in his dress, which differs none from that of a high class Arab, except in the color of his check turban, which he wears in the fashionable mode of Soliman etc."
  4. News form the West letters form Oman to Batavia 1798-1806. Published on the occasion of the visit to Leiden University Library by H.E. the minister of Awqaf and religious Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman, Shaikh Abdallah bin Mohammed bin Abdullah al Salimi on Friday 11 July 2013 Presented by Jan Just Witkam

Ruins of Sultan Saids Mtoni palace (birthplace of Bibi Salme) Zanzibar

Mtoni Palace Zanzibar

Ruins of Sultan Saids Mtoni palace (birthplace of Bibi Salme):

a) Photo: P. De Lord Photographers Zanzibar approx 1900 (stamped on the back) and handwritten in pencil 44

b) Photo: The same identical photo but with a different stamp of Pereira de Lord Photo Artist. Also handwritten in pencil 44

c) Colored Postcard: A.C. Gomes and sons Photographers Zanzibar (on reverse Union postale universelle) This card not in P.C. Evans the early postcards of Zanzibar.

d) Print: Mtoni palace as depicted in 1846 by Guillain

Mtoni Palace Zanzibar

Mtoni Palace

Zanzibar Mtoni palace where Bibi Salme grew up

Two men in front of the ruins of the famous Mtoni palace (Home of Sultan Said and Bibi Salme) in which over a 1000 people plus many animals have been living during the first half of the 19th century. For a detailed description of life in the palace see Emily Ruete (Bibi Salme ) "Memoirs of an Arabian princess"  See the slide-show for the early postcard of the Mtoni palace ruins and the 1840´s print in Ref 2 Guillain´s book when the palace was still bustling with activity.

Mtoni means in Swahili "close to the creek" The oldest illustrations of the palace can be found in the mentioned book by Captain Guillain (ref 2) The palace was built by Sultan Said. between 1828 and 1834.

Such an Omani  palace is not as luxurious as a Western palace.  In 1857 the adventurer Richard Burton was received by Sultan Said (Seyyid Said) Burton described the palace as looking like the Gothic castle of a German prince..... It was later largely demolished and adapted for use as a storage dump. The palace water-supply was conveyed from the Chem Chem spring along a stone aqua-duct (Falaj) Today in particular the Persian baths of the palace have best survived. Again The book of Emily Ruete gives us interesting details on the use of the dozen or so baths when she was living there.


Around 1810 the (francophile) Omani Saleh bin Haramil al Abry introduced the clove tree on his Mtoni estate in Zanzibar. The French had already done so successfully in other parts of East Africa (after stealing seedlings during the late 18th century from the Dutch who had a monopoly on clove production in the Dutch Indies) By 1819 the cloves on Mtoni and Kizimbani started producing their first crops. Saleh was imprisoned and the  Mtoni estate and the planted clove trees were confiscated in 1828 by Sultan Said bin Sultan, officially because Saleh trespassed the Moresby (slave) treaty of Oman with the British. However it is also argued that his pro French and anti British attitude played an important role. The palace was later built on the Mtoni estate. Sultan said bin Sultan encouraged his subjects to plant cloves all over the fertile uplands in the western part of the island.


After the death of Sultan Said in 1856 the palace lost its importance and fell into ruin quickly, also the cloth plantations on the Mtoni estate have disappeared.

This photo is unpublished in the specialist literature on the palace. It is very important in the sense that the two man in front of the building give a good impression of the enormous size of the building. The book "Memoirs of an Arabian princess" by Lionel Strachey 1907 page 16 includes a photo (by Gomes) of the ruins. Pereira de Lord and his brother were among the most prolific photographers in Zanzibar history. No one has more preserved work still available today than they, this may well be because no one took more photographs of old Zanzibar than they did. They seem to have been everywhere in the early years, all over the town, in the country, at sea, in high buildings and of course they also maintained a studio. There, just off a main street in Stone Town, they produced quality portraiture for all manner of customers

  1. Mtoni, palace, sultan & princess of Zanzibar. Antoni Folkers etc. Lecturis Eindhoven 2010
  2. Guillain, Voyage a la cote orientale d´Afrique execute pendant les annees 1846, 1847, 1848. Sous le commandement  de M. Guillain capitage de fregate. Publie par ordre du gouvernement.
  3. Major Pearce, Zanzibar, the island metropolis of Eastern Africa 1920;
  4.  Emily Ruete, Memoirs of an Arabian Princess,  translated by Lionel Stratchey illustrated, New York Double Page & Company 1907 After page 16 a photo of the ruins of Mtoni palace

Rooftop panorama of Zanzibar stone-town 1875 (left part)

Early rooftop photo Zanzibar stone town

Rooftop panorama photo of Zanzibar stone-town probably by John Kirk taken around 1875. Fitted on carton with short English handwritten text on the reverse side of the album page  (containing an 1870´s panorama of Valetta harbour in Malta) The handwriting is identical or very similar to that of Dr. John Kirk. He produced similar rooftop photos of Zanzibar stone-town that were published in the 1870´s

Antique photo panorama Zanzibar

Details visible on this rooftop panorama

This is the left-hand part of the rooftop panorama. This photo has probably been taken from the light-house next to Madjid´s palace. The slave market that was replaced by a church is located just outside the picture on the left. Photo: (16 by 10 cm)

The inland water on our photo is the end of the creek that used to almost surround the stone town at high tide (see Zanzibar in contemporary times R.N. Lyne 1905 reprint 1987 map before p 7)  Note: Most of the creek has been used for building nowadays.

The building on the left is the back of the huge sultan´s palace Beit al Sahel and Beit al Hakum (court) and part of the gardens with a garden-house and surrounding wall. The wooden  pavilion located in the garden on the front was indicated on the original map by Guillain  as item P "Mat de Pavilion" (see next item)

There is a further rooftop-photo in the Oswald album that fits to the left of this photo, but probably is of a later date (see Winterton collection Album 74, page 4 photograph 2 (with Madjid´s palace in front) It probably fits as it was also taken from the light-house.

Form Emily Ruete we kow that during the evening family's would come to the roofs to enjoy the pleasant climate. Later in the 19th century shades of tin-plates were introduced on the roofs.

Section of the Guillain plan of 1846:

P is the wooden pavilion we see above in the front.

A is the Sultan's palace seen on the left.

Q ancient palace seen on the back

F is the battery in fornt of the old Fort


  1. Another copy of this extremely rare and early photo is found in the important Oswald album page 12 photo 1  in the Winterton collection. The unique album was specially  made for the jubilee of the Oswald firm on Zanzibar. This album contains photos and drawings from 1850s to 1890s, the period when the firm Oswald had been operating on Zanzibar. The album also contains photos of the house of Dr. John Kirk who was well acquainted with the Oswalds.
  2. Ernst Hieke Zur Geschichte des Deutsches handels mit Ostafrika abb 42 contains a photo with the same roof of the old palace from a different angle. In fact it is part of an earlier palace see the town-plan from the   Guillain´s book Voyage Orientale

Zanzibar rooftop Panorama (right part): the old Fort, dating from around 1875 Also the house of Princess Bibi Salme (Emily Ruete) where she fell in love with her German neighbour Heinrich Ruete is visible.

Early rooftop photos of Zanzibar old fort

One of the earliest rooftop panorama photo´s of Zanzibar stone-town dating from approx. 1875 most probably taken by Vice Consul Dr. John Kirk. The details of the interior of the old Fort are also very interesting and match the description by Osgood (see below)

The handwriting below the photo is very similar / identical to that of John Kirk. John Kirk and especially his wife helped Emily escape from Zanzibar and execution by her brother the Sultan (this was years later also confirmed in a letter by Kirk's son to Emily's son Rudolph) Emily escaped with the British ship Highflyer. John Kirk was a keen and good photographer.

Antique photo Zanzibar

Details regarding the "Old Fort" in Zanzibar

This is the right-hand part of the rooftop-panorama. This photo has probably been taken from the lighthouse next to Majid´s palace. Photo:  (16 by 10 cm) Fitted on carton.

The house of Bibi Salme where she fell in love with the German Mr Ruete can been just above the top-right tower of the fort. See slide-show for detail. Other interesting buildings are: The Old Jail and Old Barracks.

Antique photo Emily Ruete House Zanzibar

Top-right the house of princess Bibi Salme (Emily Ruete). The large white building in the background was rented from the Sultan by the German firm Hansing & Co that was represented by Heinrich Ruete. The photographer (vice consul) Dr John Kirk and his wife helped Emily escape from Zanzibar (and from execution by her brother the Sultan)

 One of the earliest photos of the Fort in Zanzibar. For comparison see the Kirk panorama (1875) in the collection of the Royal Geographic society. The fort was built between 1698 and 1701 by the Busaidi tribe  of Omani Arabs, who had gained control of Zanzibar in 1698, following almost two centuries of Portuguese occupation. The fort was used as a defence against the Portuguese and against a rival Omani group, the Mazrui, who occupied Mombasa at that time. The fort was constructed by the Busaidi Omani Arabs on the site of a Portuguese church which had been built between 1598 and 1612. In the main courtyard, remnants of the old church can still be seen built into the inside wall. In the 19th century the fort was used as a prison, and criminals were executed or punished here, at a place just outside the east wall. The Swahili word gereza, meaning prison, is thought to be derived from the Portuguese word ireja, meaning church.......

The American Joseph Osgood visited Zanzibar around 1850: "Zanzibar is fortified by a large towery castle, which faces the harbour. A Parapet mounted with a row of good artillery, affords an additional means of defence against incursion. So ruinously conditioned, however, is the fort , that a few well directed broadsides from a ship of war would destroy the whole structure. It is used as a place of confinement for criminals. Within the enclosure of the fort is quite a little village of huts , occupied by about a hundred soldiers and their families. The soldiers are slaves in part, and in part freemen. The latter are Belooches, in the service of the Imaum, under pay of four dollars per month. Their arms are matchlocks, scimitars, two-edged swords, and shields of rhinoceros hide. Many shields of this kind are turned at Zanzibar for Northern markets" 

 Chained prisoners Zanzibar

Convicts / Forced labour Zanzibar Stonetown

Photo taken by J. Sturtz 1888-1890 (Ref 6)

Ref 5 states:  These are prisoners from the fort, small thieves, disobedient servants  who for months or years will be under the Sultans care. They must now haul coral-stones, clean the camel yard and swipe the streets. With such rings and chains Bushiri had Dr. Hans Meijer and Dr. Baumann chained and kept prison for two nights and a day at his Schamba Mundo near Pangani. The black man with the thick legs next to the prisoners  is suffering from the nasty disease elephantiasis.  His feet will continue to get increasingly bigger and because the disease is incurable and will take him closer and closer to his death. I heart this already in Samoa, where the plague has spread very much"

Ref 6 in our collection states below the same photo in handwriting: "Kriegsgevangene aus Bagamojo" , meaning Prisoners of war from Bagamoyo.  

The Germans used the same chains for their prisoners as the Arabs for their slaves. But as there are no Askari soldiers present  on the photo it was probably taken in Zanzibar.

  1. Another copy of this extremely rare and early photo of Zanzibar is found in the important Oswald Album page 12 photo 2 in the Winterton collection. The specially made album also contains photos of the house of John Kirk. The album contains photos and drawings originating from the 1840´s to the 1890´s the 50 years the German firm Oswald had been operating in Zanzibar. John Kirk was also a friend of Oswald, the German firms owner.
  2. Joseph B.F. Osgood Notes of Travel or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, muscat, Aden, Mocha and other Eastern ports Salem 1854 page 27
  3. Baron Carl Claus von der Deckens Reisen in Ost-Afrika in den Jahren 1859 bis 1865, vol. 1, p. 113 "Bibi Holli (i.e. Chole)  ceased to be the lioness of the day and went even more quickly out of fashion when a new star rose in the Zanzibar sky. Her stepsister, the younger Bibi Salima, had blossomed in the meantime and had surpassed her rival and the object of her stepsisterly hatred [...] On moonlit nights the sultan’s little sister sat behind the iron bars of her window and listened with interest to the Wasungu [Europeans] on the neighbouring roof"
  4. Richard Burton, Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast, Tinsley Brothers, London. 1872 Two volumes. page 91. "The interior of the fort is jammed with soldiers huts, and divided into courts by ricketty walls. here too is the only jail in Zanzibar. The stocks (Makantarah), the fetters, the iron collars, and the heavy waist-chains do not prevent black man from conversationizing, singing comic songs, and gambling with pebbles. The most mutinous white salt that ever floored skipper would 'squirm' at the idea of a second night in the black hole at Zanzibar. Such is the Oriental beau-idea of a prison - a place whose very name  should develope the goose skin, and which the Chinese significantly call 'hell'. In my day foreigners visited  the prison to see its curio, a poor devil cateran who had beaten the death-drum whilst his headman was torturing M. Maizan. etc."
  5. Land und Leute in Duetsch Ost Afrika 1890 Wangemann (text); Sturtz (photos)

    Page 15 of the book states “Dass sind strafflinge aus dem fort kleine diebe ungehorsame diener dei auf einige monaten oder Jahre von ihren herren der Sultanspflege uberwiessen worden sind. Sie mussen jetzt korallensteine schleppen , den kamelshof reinigen   und die strassen fegen. Mit solchen ringen und ketten hat ubrichens auch Bushiri die doctoren Hans Meyer und Baumann auf seiner Schamba Mundo bei Pangani gefesselt und zwei nachte und einen tag  gefangen gehalten. Der schwarze mit dem dicken bein neben den strafflingen ist mit der hasslichen krankheit Elephantiasis behaftet. Seine fusse werden immer mehr schwellen, den die krankheit soll nicht heilbar sein, vielmehr nach und nach der tod herbeifuhren. Ich horte dies schon in Samoa dort ist diese plage auch sehr verbreitet.”

  6. Erinnerung an die Ostafrikanische Blockade und  meiner Reise an bord SMS Carola 1888-1890 (50 original photos, by naval officer J. Sturz, the album belonged to Emil Voelker and have his manuscript captions on the photos) Emil Voelker was on-board the SMS Carola during these events. In our collection now.

Large photo panorama of Zanzibar 1896 or earlier

Large photo panorama of zanzibar town

Large panorama of Zanzibar town taken from the sea 1896 or earlier (taken before the bombardment, panorama over 1 meter long) Extremely rare to find such a large panorama before the bombardment.

Contains some initials (JE?) in pencil on the green boards. Text on the boards in German. See the sideshow for the full panorama. 

Antique photo panorama Zanzibar

Left part of the large panorama

Antique photo panorama Zanzibar

Right-hand part of Panorama  (German, American and British Consulates)

Panorama details

Spectacular panorama of the seafront in Zanzibar. Length 107cm by 20 cm cm consisting of 4 parts laid down on green paper.

  • On the left Arab merchant houses in the beach, the old Royal palace, the current Royal Palace with Harem and the House of Wonders (with the lighthouse positioned before it)
  • In the middle the customs area
  • On the right the German consultate, The American consulate and the British consulate.
  1.  The same large panorama is also found in The Humphrey Winterton Collection of East African Photographs: 1860-1960: Reise Erinnerungen Album 73 photo 1  Panorama of Zanzibar, a superb panorama of the Zanzibar waterfront showing dhows, the Sultan’s Palace and the British Consulate. July 1 1894. Also in Album 6 object 44
  2. Oman faces and places page 52
  3. The Zanzibar House of Wonders Museum, Abdul Sherif , KIT publishers
  4. Rijksmuseum Online collection RP-F-F00999-DD Lists Coutinho Brothers as the photographers, but they were possibly the resellers of the photo. Also date is wrong. Photo is 100% certain from before the bombardment as the Clock-tower is stand-alone.

Three Photo´s of Sultan of Zanzibar Barghash bin Said, a full brother of princess Emily Ruete

Sultan of Zanzibar Barghash bin Said

Three 1870´s Photo´s  of Sultan of Zanzibar Barghash bin Said:   

1) Maull & Co Picadilly London taken in 1875 11 by 16,5 cm

2) Maull & Co Picadilly London taken in 1875 (same but smaller) 6,5 by 10,5 cm

3) Unknown, Zanzibar,taken in 1875 (sold by Coutinho Brothers Zanzibar, stamp on back of photo) 13,4 by 8,6 cm


Antique Photo Zanzibar: Sultan Barghash of Zanzibar  Sultan Barghash of Zanzibar

Carte de Visite of Sultan Bargash by Maull & Co Picadilly London  (see ref 2 for background)

Background to the life of Sultan Barghash:

Barghash bin Said was the third Sultan of Zanzibar, he ruled from 1870 until 1888 and the brother of Emily Ruete.  The photo by Maull & Co was taken during his visit to London. The third photo was taken in 1875 (see the photo slide-show) the stamp on the back tells us that it was sold at a later stage by the Coutinho Brothers in Zanzibar. The Sultan´s mother was a slave who was freed upon his birth; several Zanzibar Sultans were sons of slave women. His father Seyyid Said (Said bin Sultan) was Sultan / Imaum of Oman and Zanzibar. Said bin Sultan was the first Omani Sultan to put up residence in Zanzibar.Said bin Sultan arranged for the large scale planting of  Clove trees on the island, that resulted in a period of wealth for the island. Barghash is credited with building much of the infrastructure of Zanzibar Stone Town, including piped water, public baths, a police force, roads, parks, hospitals and large administrative buildings such as the House of Wonders. He was perhaps the last Sultan to maintain some measure of true independence from European control during the early part of his reign. He did consult with European "advisors" who had immense influence but he was still the central figure they wrestled to control. He crossed wits with diplomats from Britain, America, Germany, France and Portugal and was often able to play one country off another in an endgame of pre-colonial chess. It was his son, Khaled, who while vying for the succession, was the looser in the Shortest War ever against the British in 1896.

Maul & Co were photographers to the royal family. 187 Piccadilly London. Henry Maull (1829 – 1914) was a British photographer who specialised in portraits of noted individuals. He became a member of the Royal Photographic Society in 1870.


  1. Abyssinia to zanzibar 1850S -1950S Catalogue of the photographic archive of the Winterton Africanan Collection published by Allsworth rare books London page 134 item 67 2 cartes-de-visite 1870s
  2. 2015 The Sultan's Spymaster Peera Dewjee of Zanzibar by Judy Aldrick published by Old Afrika books Kenya. page 132 "The Sultan had his photograph taken by Maull & Co of Picadilly for a carte de visite. pestered by several photographers who wanted to take his photograph, the Sultan exclaimed to Badger  his interpreter - For the sake of Allah do conduct me somewhere to have my face taken, in order that I may br able to show a copy of it to the numerous face-takers who apply to me for it. Visiting cards with photographs were the fashion and everyone of consequence had one and the Sultan had his own made and then handed them out to the officials he met, in the same way that business cards are used today
  3. A diplomatist in the East, London Jonathan Cape 1928 p 85-86

Zanzibar Stone-town map and the Creek by Guillain 1846

Slideshow Map Zanzibar Stone-town by Guillain1846


Maps of Zanzibar. We have added these old maps between the photos to be able to orientate yourselves better in the old stone-town as  it is quite different from today.

Note the location of the fort, pavilion, palaces and the creek on the 1846 map by Guillain and also on our previous photo.


 Antique map Zanzibar


 Old layout of Zanzibar Stonetown and the Creek

The layout of Zanzibar Stone-town changed over time. Of particular interest is the Creek that largely separates Stone-town from the rest of the island during high tide (apart form a narrow land-stroke) During low tide it falls largely dry and people could cross it at a couple of points. The narrow land-stroke that connects stone with the rest of the island originally contained many graves. On the previous 1875 photo the old creek is visible in the distance.

The attached map by Guillain shows the creek as it was in 1846.  During the 20th  century the Creek area was largely used for building activities. In the slide-show you also find a sketch  of the complete island according to a guide from 1939.

  1. Guillain Voyage a la cote orientale d´Afrique execute pendant les annees 1846, 1847, 1848. Sous le commandement  de M. Guillain capitage de fregate. Publie par ordre du gouvernement.

Zanzibar boat- tank and the Bet il Sahel Palace located in Stone-town. Antique photo taken around 1890


"Bet il Sahel" means shore house.  The Bet il Sahel Palace (on the left) was originally a rectangular building. In the 1870's sultan Barghash added a pavilion (visible behind the boat-tank) The boat-tank was intended to make extra water available for the people and animals in the palace. Note the old cannons on the right.

Antique photo Zanzibar: The boat tank in front of the harem building

Emily Ruete wrote about the Bet il Sahel palace: "There is a splendid view of the sea.... The doors on the upper floor, which contained many rooms, open upon a long and wide gallery of such grandness as I have never seen equalled. The ceiling is supported by pillars and these pillars are connected by a high parapet, along which chairs are placed. A great many coloured lamps, suspended from the ceiling, throw a magic glow over the whole house after dark.  The gallery looks down upon a courtyard, always full of bustle and noise. ... Two large separate flights of stairs lead from this court to the rooms on the first floor. Crowds of people are continually going up and down these stairs, and the crowding is often so great that it takes some minutes before one can get to the staircase at all"

The Sahel palace and the clock tower were destroyed in the 1896 by the British (Shortest war ever) The new clock tower was incorporated in the rebuilt "House of Wonders"  The House of Wonders was originally built in 1883 and rebuilt after 1886.

The Bet Il Sahel palace was connected with a bridge / passage to the Bet il Tani palace. below the bridge was the Turkish bath house. It was in Bet il Tani where Sultan Seyid bin Sultan (Emily's father) lived with his wife a Persian princess Sheshadeh, who he later divorced. Sheshadeh had a wild love affair with one of her Persian guards.

Below an old film of Zanzibar:


  1. Memoirs of an Arabian princess, Ward & Downey London 1888

Beit Al Sahel;Beit Al Hukm; Clock Tower; House of Wonders Photo taken before 1890.

These buildings were largely or partly destroyed by a bombardment of the British fleet in 1896. They were rebuilt, except for the clock tower. The buildings now contain the House of Wonders museum and the palace Museum in Zanzibar

Photo of Zanzibar stone-town waterfront taken between 1883 and 1890. German handwritten text below.

On the left we see the Sultan's Beit al Sahel palace incl. Harem (Beach Palace) . Note the cannons in front of the palace.

In the middle we see  the Beit al Hukm building (House of Government)

On the right we see in front the stand alone clock tower. Behind the clock tower we see the original House of Wonders, that was built in 1883 by Sultan Barghash.

You can see that these buildings were connected with covered passages above the streets.

 Antique photo zanzibar palaces

In 1896  these buildings were destroyed and or seriously damaged by the the British fleet. The House of Wonders was repaired and the clock tower incorporated in the building. The rebuilt building currently contains the House of Wonders museum.

The rebuilt Beit Als Sahel is currently the Palace Museum.

  1. An Arabian Princess between two worlds by E. van Donzel published by Brill  Leiden 1993

Two Arab harem ladies. Photo by Zangaki around 1880


Two Arab harem ladies. Photo by Zangaki and titled "No 810 Deux femmes Arabes" taken in the period (1870-1890)

Original albumen print. This illustration was also used in the first illustrated edition of Memoirs of an Arabian Princess by Bibi Salme / Emily Ruete 1907. The photo is unusual in that the vase the ladies are carrying is almost certainly ancient and precious, while normally Zangaki uses cheap ladies with cheap pottery.

 Antique photo Zangaki  two harem ladies

Photographers: The Zangaki  brothers:

Photo of two veiled Arab women by Zangaki. Adelphoi Zangaki (the Zangaki Brothers), active 1870s-1890s, were two Greek photographers who specialized in historic or ancient Egyptian scenes, producing prints for the tourist trade. They occasionally worked with the Port Said photographer, Hippolyte Arnoux.

Little is known about the brothers, except their initials, C. and G. and that they worked out of Port Said and Cairo.  Their photographs of late 19th century Egypt, though produced for sale to the flourishing European tourist trade to Egypt, are highly prized by historians and collectors for their insights into life at the time. Images included views of the pyramids (e.g. Cheops or the Sphinx) and the cities (e.g. Suez or Alexandria) as well of Egyptians going about their daily lives (e.g. a teacher and pupils, men by the Nile, or women at home)

  1. Emily Ruete, Memoirs of an Arabian Princess,  translated by Lionel Stratchey illustrated, New York Double Page & Company 1907 after page 126 the same photo with the title "members of an Arabian harem"

Antique photo with three armed Omani men from Bagamoyo, in the middle we see Ismael the Wali of Windi

Armed Omani men Bagamoyo Ismael Wali Windi

Antique photo with three armed Omani men in Zanzibar East Africa wearing Saidi Khanjars and swords taken 1889 or earlier.

The photographer is unknown. Based on the  pencil inscription in German below the photo we conclude that the central figure most probably is Ismael the Liwali of Windi, an area close to Bagamoyo (on the East African coast) This Liwali was killed during the Arab uprising against the Germans in 1889 for details see ref 2


 Antique photo Zanzibar Omani


Who is who on the photo

Albumen photo of three Omani men in Zanzibar.  All men wear  official Saidi khanjars and the two men on the left wear also robes typically worn by Omani officials.  The word Ismael is below the man on the right, is he Ismael?, but his cloths are less posh than that of the men on the left.  Another image of this photo has been published full page on page 3 of reference 1 describing the Winterton Africana collection Album 73 item 38. Our photo, however, has an interesting inscription in German that translates "ISMAEL  Highly regarded rich Arabs from Bagamoyo" (Ismael Angesehene reiche Araber aus Bagamoyo).



Bagamoyo was the town on the coast of the mainland where caravans with ivory and slaves returned from the interior of East Africa. In 1889 still 1305 caravans with  41144 people passed the city. It became the capital of German East Africa.

The name Ismael possibly suggests the men may have been Omani Ismaili.  Ismaili have been reported to live in Bagamoyo since 1840. However there are different groups of Ismaili. The most famous Ismaili in Zanzibar was Tharia Thopan, of Indian origin, and a member of the group that paid tribute to the Aga Khan. However the Al Lawatia who have been living in Oman for centuries and working as important merchants in e.g. Muttrah and Zanzibar  are also Ismaili in origin, but they pay not , already since a long time, tribute to  the Aga Khan. Both groups are Shia moslims, while most Omani are Ibadhi (Sunni) moslims. More specifically the Lawatis converted during the 19th century to "twelver Shia Islam" from "Ismaili Shia Islam" .


1) This photo is also included in the Winterton collection Album 73 Reise Erinnerungen page 38 three Zanzibari officials in Omani dress

2) HGM Tullemans Pere Etienne Baur en d Arabische opstand van 1888-1889 Promotion Thesis 1982 2 volumes University of Nijmegen 

3) Land und Leute in Duetsch Ost Afrika 1890 Wangemann (text); Sturtz (photos) This book does not contain the photo but it does contain a description of the Sultans irregular soldiers from around 1888 in the customs area of Zanzibar town page 4: "Sie haben weite gewander in matten abgetonten farben, phantastische turbannen auf dem kopf, und sind mit ein ganzen waffensammlung behangen. Da fuhren sie flinten lang wie blasrohre und reich mit silber beschlagen, zwei, drei krumme dolchen stecken in der leibbinde  dazu kommt ein pulverhorn offt aus silber und in scheneckenhausform gebildet, patronenkartuschen nach art der Tjerkessen (HvW: Circassians)  ein kleiner schildt aus nilpferdhaut, ein krummer Sabel oder ein gerades schwert mit dunner zitternder klinge. Oft stehen sie in gruppen beisammen, sehen uns mit funkelenden augen und spielen mit ihre waffen.


Youtube film of Bagamoyo area:

Omani and British officials including Tharia Topan Zanzibar

Navy officers and Omani officials including Tharia Topan


Photo of senior Navy officers and Omani elite including the Indian Tharia Topan who collected taxes in Zanzibar on behalf of the Sultan. Photo taken before 1890. Photographer unknown. Photo belonged to a Consul of the US in Zanzibar.



Antique photo Zanzibar

Who is who on this photo?

Sir Tharia Topan is the big (Indian Ismaili ) gentleman located front-row right.  Tharia Topan:

  • Left Zanzibar 1885 (So the photo is definitely before 1886) never to return as he died on his trip abroad in 1891
  • Was the most important Ismaili Indian (Khoja) businessman in Zanzibar: for several years he was responsible for collecting customs fees.
  • Coordinated infrastructure projects for Sultan Bargash and was a minister for him.
  • Was main business partner of the Explorer and notorious slave and Ivory trader Tippu Tip!
  • Funded the preparations of the expeditions by Stanley who was guided by Tippu Tip etc.
  • Entertained David Livingstone after he was recovered from then jungle and taken to Zanzibar.

Person top-row right is Sir Bartle Frere and several high ranking British naval officers.

The key person in the middle of the front row could be:

  • David Livingstone (wishful thinking? )
  • Sir Claude Maxwell Macdonald who was consul general from 1887-1889 (but Topan had left by then, so not likely? )
  • Another British officer / diplomat? But strange for a diplomat /  officer to have a jacket and trousers that fit so poorly and to be so poorly shaved

The Omani official on the front-row with his sword is also unknown, almost certainly a member of the Sultans family (he could be Hamad bin Thuwaini who became sultan in 1893)

Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini

Hamad bin Thuwaini at later age , became Sultan in 1893

and was probably poisoned a few years later.



 Most of the officials on first photo are also on the next stone-laying photo. The uniforms worn by the British naval officers were phased out before 1890.

It was Bartle Frere who in 1875 persuaded Bibi Salme (Emily Ruete) not to contact her brother Sultan Bargash (about her inheritance) during the Sultans visit to London, with a promise of financial support for her children. However the British did not keep word.


  1. This photo comes from the estate of the American consul in Zanzibar Seth Pratt. He was consul 1889-1891 He went back to New York USA in 1891 with the ship Wheatland. He became vice consul in 1898?
  2. The Sultan's Spymaster Peera Dewjee of Zanzibar by Judy Aldrick page 242 . The predecessor of Sultan Ali was forced by the Germans (and supported by the British) to accept  in 1890 a payment of GBP 200.000 for the Coastal strip initially rented by the Germans (German east African Colony). In 1894 the British private company IBEACo  was close to bankruptcy and the British forced Sultan Hamed to Buy the company with the GBP 200.000 originally obtained from the Germans.  The sultan was under the impression that he would get back his coastal strip as compensation, but the British told him the unpleasant news that this was not the case. The Sultan reacted "So be it!  I am merely a little bird in the claws of an eagle"
  3. Seth A. Pratt , "Clove Culture in Zanzibar" US Department of State Reports of the consuls of the United States 32 Nr 112-115 (Jan-Apr. 1890) p 687-688


Stonelaying Zanzibar around 1880 Omani British officials


Zanzibar Stonelaying next to Darjhani creek around 1880 (a mystery location) probably next to the Anglican church located on the old slave-market.We can see Darjhani creek including a small boat in the background.

Several Omani and British officials are also on the previous photo!

  1. This photo comes from the estate of the American consul in Zanzibar Seth Pratt. He went back to New York USA in 1891 with the ship Wheatland
  2. Seth A. Pratt , "Clove Culture in Zanzibar" US Department of State Reports of the consuls of the United States 32 Nr 112-115 (Jan-Apr. 1890) p 687-688 

Antiique photo Zanzibar stonelaying

Detail of the photo below. Omani and English officials are present

 Antique photo Zanzibar Stonelaying

Tippu Tip the Zanzibari slave and ivory trader, explorer and diplomat around 1890

Tippu Tip Slavetrader explorer and diplomat

Original large 1890ish photo of the famous Tippu Tip / Tippu Tib (Muhammed el Murjebi also Hemed bin Mohammed) the Zanzibari slave and ivory trader, soldier, explorer, plantation owner, writer  and diplomat. The photo was taken by Coutinho brothers.  In the slide-show you also find two  postcards: Tippu Tib  by "Gomes and son" published  1929 (rare) Second postcard has the title "Well Known Arab Chief (Liwali)"  by P & P works (photographer  K. Pop)  Nairobi and Mombassa. around 1907 (Rare) For more information on Tippu Tip see below and in the slavery section of our website. Size 20 by 15 cm.

 Antique photo Tippu Tip Zanzibar

The influential life of Tippu Tip

Tippu Tip lived between 1837-1905. His close business partner was Tharia Topan. His real name is Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Sa‘īd al Merjebi . His mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. He was famously known by the natives of East Africa as Tippu Tib possibly after the sounds that his many guns made. However Tippu Tib is mostly  interpreted as "He who Blinks"

He was the biggest slave and ivory dealer in East Africa. Later he  became a plantation owner and governor, who worked for a succession of sultans of Zanzibar. He led many trading expeditions into Central Africa, involving the slave trade and ivory trade. He constructed profitable trading posts that reached deep into Central Africa. He Also made big contributions to the European expeditions of Livingstone and Stanley. He called The Belgian King Leopold II his new Sultan. He helped and guided several famous western explorers including Livingstone and Stanley into the interior of East Africa. He therefore features in the works of Livingstone and Stanley. Even the British and the German commander von Wismann made keenly use of his influence in East Africa. After 1884 he lived in Singitini (in the Arab part of Kinsingani) and was Gouvernor of Kisingani. Between 1884 and 1887, El Murgebi claimed the Eastern Congo for himself and for the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bargash bin Said el Busaidi. In spite of his position as protector of Zanzibar's interests in Congo, he managed to maintain good relations with the Europeans. When, in August 1886, fighting broke out between the Swahili and the representatives of King Leopold II of Belgium at Stanley Falls, El Murgebi went to the Belgian consul at Zanzibar to assure him of his "good intentions" Although he was still a force in Central African politics, he could see by 1886 that power in the region was shifting.

In early 1887, Stanley arrived in Zanzibar and proposed that Tippu Tip be made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. Both Leopold and Sultan Barghash bin Said agreed and on February 24, 1887, Hamed bin Mohammed el Murgebi accepted. In 1890 he returned to Zanzibar because of a legal trial against him initiated by the explorer Stanley because of the failed Rescue Emin Pacha expedition. The court in Zanzibar completely cleared Tippu Tip from the accusations by Stanly (in fact the expedition failed due to organizational problems and and conflicts of (western) characters, another minor detail was that Emin Pacha did not want to be rescued....) Tippu Tip  had built himself a trading empire that he then translated into clove plantations on Zanzibar. Abdul Sheriff reported that when he left for his twelve years of "empire building" on the mainland, he had no plantations of his own. However, by 1895, he had acquired "seven plantations and 10,000 slaves and had become one of the riches Africans of his time.

In December 1891 and March 1892 Tippu Tip sold 3800 male slaves and 800 women to the Congo free state. They were to be  freed but had to work as rail-road labourers and soldiers.

Tippu Tip wrote his memoirs in Swahili. These memoirs were translated and published by the German Heinrich Brode: first in a scientific magazine (parallel Swahili German) later it was published in German as a book.

In 1905 the newspaper Times mentioned the death of the notorious slaver Tippu Tip, but no mention was made of the huge contribution Tippu Tip made to the expeditions of Livingstone and Stanley. Nor his extremely important diplomatic contributions....

Another image of this  photo is illustrated on page 130 of reference 19 that describes the Winterton Africana collection (Album 62 item 1) The Coutinho brothers established one of the first commercial photographic enterprises on the island of Zanzibar, some time in the 1870s. Probably of Portugese origin, little is known of their lives. On the back a blue stamp "Coutinho Brothers Photographers Zanzibar" and in pencil written Tippu Tip.

Book Tippu Tip Brode

First German edition of Tippu Tip's autobiography translated from Swahili into German by Heinrich Brode

References : Tippu Tip´s life  is described and referenced in an endless list of books reflecting his importance to the history of Eastern Africa:
  1. Tippu Tip H. Brode , Maisha  ya Hamed bin Muhammed El Murjebi, in Mitteilungen des Seminars für orientalische Sprachen  Abteilung III, Jahrgang V: p 175-277 und VI p1-55 1902/1903
  2. Tippu Tip Lebensbild eines zentralafrikanischen Despoten - Nach seinen eigenen Angaben dargestellt" translated by  Dr. Heinrich Brode from Swahili into German and published by Wilhelm Baensch Berlin 1905
  3. Brode, Heinrich. Tippoo Tib: The Story of His Career in Zanzibar & Central Africa. Translated by H. Havelock with preface by Sir Charles Elliot. London: Arnold, 1907
  4. Leda Ferrant, Tippu Tip and the East African Slave Trade , St Martin´s press New York  1975
  5. Heinrich Brode, Tippu Tip: The Story of his career in Zanzibar and Central Africa, The Gallery Publications, Zanzibar 2000
  6. David Livingstone, Missionary Travels and Researches , 1857
  7. David Livingstone The Last Journals 1874
  8. Stanley How I found Livingstone
  9. Stanley through the dark continent 1879
  10. Stanley The Congo and the founding of the free state
  11. Stanley In darkest Afrika
  12. Stanley My Kalulu, Prince, King and Slave
  13. W.H. Ingrams Zanzibar Its History and People
  14. F.B. Pearce Zanzibar, The Island metropolis of Eastern Africa 
  15. Christiane Bird, The Sultan´s Shadow One family´s Rule at the crossroads of East and West, Random House New York 2010
  16. Bennett, Norman Robert. Arab vs. European: Diplomacy and war in Nineteenth-Century Est Central Africa. New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1986.
  17. Sheriff, Abdul. Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770-1873. London, Nairobi, Tanzania, Athens,OH: James Currey, Heinemann Kenya, Tanzania Publishing House, Ohio University Press, 1987
  18. Wikipedia Tippu Tip
  19. Abyssinia to zanzibar 1850S -1950S Catalogue of the photographic archive of the Winterton Africanan Collection published by Allsworth rare books London Item 62 no1.

Photos of Zanzibar by J. Sturtz in 1888


Antique photo Zanzibar

In the distance we see the Zanzibar town lighthouse (Ref 2 photo by J. Sturtz)

The poor state of the buildings is not just neglect, but also caused by the coral-stone they are built with.   The salt in the coral-stone works like a sort of cancer within the walls and requires continuous repair work. 

Zanzibar harbour

Same harbour view but from the opposite direction (Ref 2 photo by J.Sturtz)

Wangemann (ref 1 page 10 1890 writes about the large white building with a flat roof, a little left of the centre of the photo): "This is the Sultan's arsenal. It contains thousands of antique ship guns made of iron or bronze with Arab and Portuguese inscriptions, many of them 300 or 400 years old! Most of the material is in a poor state" Somewhere on the right of the Arsenal is the ice-factory.


Antique photo Zanzibar

The dhow harbour in Zanzibar with the Lighthouse in the distance (Ref 2 photo by J. Sturtz)


Old  photo Zanzibar harbour

Landing-place of Zanzibar harbour (Ref 2 photo by J. Sturtz)

Rooftop panorama of Zanzibar seen from the old German hospital. At the horizon we see the clock-tower (ref 2 photo Jr. Sturtz around 1888)

Wangemann (ref 1 page page 18) writes about this photo: The Arab houses are very impractical in this climate: humid and dark, with their small windows. Early in the evening children and women go to the roofs of their houses to enjoy the drop in temperature. They are not afraid fall off the flat roofs without fences. The many jewellery on arms and legs is sparkling in the sunset.

Comment: On the earliest photos by John Kirk in the 1870's we see some houses with wind-towers (an early and very clever Arab technique of air-conditioning) on later photos these towers have disappeared, not sure why.


Antique photo zanzibar

Southern part of the main street of Zanzibar town (ref 2 photo taken by J. Sturtz)


Antique photo Zanzibar fort

 The Sultan of Zanzibar garrison is based in the fort / barrack with its long and high walls seen in the distance, the family members for the soldiers live in the huts on the right. Photo taken from the roof of the old German hospital, the road is the Mnasimoja. Beyond the fort is the Indian graveyard (ref 2 photo J. Sturtz)


Indian Graveyard Zanzibar

 Indian Graveyard


Indian mosque Zanzibar

 Indian mosque / temple Zanzibar, probably next to the Indian graveyard.


Antique photo Zanzibar

Ladies carrying water from a well in Zanzibar (Ref 2 photo J. Sturtz)


 Antique photo zanzibar Ngambo

 Zanzibar town Ngambo quarters (on the other side of the Creek) Ref 2 photo J. Sturtz

J Osgood (Ref 3) writes: " Over each doorway is fixed a passage from the Koran, usually written on a piece of paper.  In this practice  may be noticed the superstitious belief in demony, and their implicit faith in the power of charms and amulets to keep off evil spirits . The devil, or Shatan, as they call him is a continued source of annoyance." 

The smaller ships are used for sailing to and from the East African coast.  The sea going Dhows travel to Oman and further. The Ocean going dhow trade depended on the direction of the monsoon winds.

  1. Land und Leute in Deutsch Ost Afrika Wangemann (text); Sturtz (photos) There is a second edition of  1890 and a third of 1894. No copy of the first edition is known: Maybe there is a relation of this first edition with of our set of 50 photos which are higher resolution variants of the Sturtz photos in the Wangemann book.
  2. Erinnerung an die Ostafrikanische Blockade und  meiner Reise an bord SMS Carola 1888-1890 (50 original photos, by naval officer J. Sturz, the album belonged to Emil Voelker and have his manuscript captions on the photos) Emil Voelker was on-board the SMS Carola during these events.
  3. Joseph B.F. Osgood Notes of Travel or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, muscat, Aden, Mocha and other Eastern ports Salem 1854 page 28

Sultan's palaces Chuini (not absolutelysure) and Chukwani palace


This is probably Chuini palace in Zanzibar photograph taken  around 1880-1890.  Chuini means Leopard. The palace was built in 1872 by Sultan Barghash. This palace is located approx 10 km from stone-town Zanzibar. The building was modernised  and expanded by Sultan Ali bin Said.  In 1914 it was destroyed by fire.

The handwritten text on the photo says in German: Old villa of the sultan of Zanzibar (Alte Villa Sultan Sansibar)

Antique photo zanzibar


Chukwani Palace Zanzibar

Ref 2 also contains this photo and mentions as title Schusswani Luschtschloss des Sultans (Ref 3 Photo by J.Sturtz) 


  1. An Arabian Princess between two worlds by E. van Donzel published by Brill  Leiden 1993
  2. Land und Leute in Duetsch Ost Afrika 1890 Wangemann (text); Sturtz (photos)
  3. Erinnerung an die Ostafrikanische Blockade und  meiner Reise an bord SMS Carola 1888-1890 (50 original photos, by naval officer J. Sturz, the album belonged to Emil Voelker and have his manuscript captions on the photos) Emil Voelker was on-board the SMS Carola during these events.

Medallion: Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar awarded by Sultan Barghash 1875-1888

The Brilliant Star of Zanzibar dating between 1875 and 1888

Arab name: Wisam al-Kawkab al-Durri al-Zanzibari

Period: 1875-1888

Origin: Founded by Sultan Sayyid Majid bin Sa‘id in 1865, modified and extended by Sayyid Barghash bin Sa‘id on 22nd December 1875, and modified again by Sayyid Khalifa II bin Harub on 5th August 1918 .

This scarce medallion was made by Elkington & Co Birmingham, who also made the famous trophies for the Wimbledon man the women single finals. During his visit to Britain Sultan Barghash also visited Elkington & Co in Birmingham.  However, it is also reported that the earliest versions of this medal came from France/Germany, but no clear evidence found of this so far.

We purchased this early medallion in Germany, so the person the medallion was awarded to may very well have been a German.

Description: This Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar was a decoration awarded by sultan  Barghash of Zanzibar to reward those who had provided important assistance to the Sultan.  The medal is made of silver and enamel. The enamels of these old knight badges are often chipped (like this one) also the gilded silver wreath suspension and lint are unfortunately missing. See slide-show for a complete one (not in our collection) In the center of the knights badge is the monogram in Arabic (tughra) of Sultan Barghash. Diameter 4 cm.


Zanzibar horse guards and state carriage & Royal presents

The Zanzibar horse guards armed with lances, swords etc.

Photo of the sultan of Zanzibar horse guards and state carriage. The guards armed with lances, swords etc.

Original high resolution photograph by A.C. Gomes & Co. (1897  or earlier) Some sources claim this state carriage to be the present that Queeen Victoria gave to the Sultan of Oman and Zanzibar in 1842, unfortunately this is incorrect. The coach sent in 1842 was not even unpacked from the crates when it arrived as there were no suitable roads in Zanzibar at the time.... It was eventually sold or given to a Maharadja in India. While the Omani would typically give useful presents to the British,  they would typically receive unpractical often gaudy (and lower value) presents in return... The most embarrassing  example was when in 1854 the Sultan handed over the Kuria Muria islands to Britain and received a snuffbox in return... (the islands were valuable as they had thick layers of seabird-manure called Guano) Guano remained  valuable until artificial fertilizers were produced large scale. In 1967 the islands were returned to Oman....  The Sultan was also given by Britain a large box with dinner silver, unfortunately when the box was opened in front of the Sultan it contained a tombstone for a missionary (boxes had been mixed up during transport) The "Omani import" section of our website contains a dinner plate that was part of  a royal present given by Britain to the sultan of Oman and Zanzibar. 

Antique photo Zanzibar guard sultan

 The Sultan's guard

Photographers:  A.C. Gomes

The photographer A.C. Gomes and Sons was founded by A.C. Gomes in Aden in 1869, where he was appointed Government Photographer for the Fortifications (Macmillan 1930, p.314). The company seems to have moved to Zanzibar circa 1870s. Playne listed the firm's address as 'in the Main Road (opposite the G.P.O. ) Zanzibar' and wrote that 'for over forty years now their business has been carried on in those parts...' (1908-9, p.419) Gomes was briefly in partnership with J.B. Coutinho (partnership dissolved 31st July 1897)  His son P. F. Gomes continued the family business in Zanzibar for many years, he died in 1932. Over those years both have left us with some marvelous images.His earliest work is marked "A.C. Gomes & Co" (like on this photograph) Between 1900 and 1905 this photo was used  for a (low resolution) postcard The firm was appointed photographers to the Government Aerial Service during the First World War (Macmillan 1930, p.314)  A.C. Gomes died in 1917 (Macmillan 1930, p.314) The business was continued by P.F. Gomes who died in 1932. A branch of the company was opened in Dar-es-Salaam by P.F. Gomes and his son, E. Gomes, in 1929. In 1930 P.F. Gomes's other son, G. Gomes, was running the studio in Main Street, Zanzibar (Macmillan 1930, p.314)  The family were possibly originally from Goa. A photograph of A.C. Gomes and P.F. Gomes can be seen on p.419 of Playne's 'East Africa...' (1908-9)


Murdered Sultan Seyyid Hamad bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid 1893 Zanzibar

Sultan of Zanzibar Abdul Hamid 1893

 Rare original photo of the Sultan of Zanzibar Seyyid Hamad bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid (ruled 1893-1896)  The Sultan sits on a chair wearing a Saidi Khanjar, a sword and wooden slippers.

Sultan Hamad was pro British, but he was succeeded by Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid (1874 – 1927) who was anti-British ( but pro-German).

Another image of this photo has been printed in Ref 1, the catalogue describing the Winterton Africana collection page 138 album 73 item 27.

Photographer unknown. Size of photo 14 by 22 cm

  Antique photo Sultan Hamid Zanzibar 1893

  Sultan of Zanzibar Abdul Hamid bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid  (ruled 1893-1896)

In August 1896, Britain and Zanzibar fought a 38-minute war (killing 500 defenders) the shortest in recorded history, after Khalid bin Barghash had taken power after Hamid bin Thuwaini's death (poisoned?) . The British had wanted Hamoud bin Mohammed to become Sultan, believing that he would be much easier to work with. The British gave Khalid an hour to vacate the Sultan's palace in Stone Town. Khalid failed to do so, and instead assembled an army of 2,800 men to fight the British. The British launched an attack on the palace and other locations around the city. Khalid retreated (to the German consulate) and went to German East Africa.  Hamoud was then installed as Sultan.

History of Sultan of Zanzibar Seyyid Hamad bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid

Sayyid Hamad bin Thuwaini Al-Busaid, GCSI, (1857 - August 25, 1896) was the fifth Sultan of Zanzibar. He ruled Zanzibar from March 5, 1893 to August 25, 1896. He was married to a cousin, Sayyida Turkia bint Turki al-Said, daughter of Turki bin Said, Sultan of Muscat and Oman. 

Hamid died suddenly at 11.40 am on 25 August 1896 and was almost certainly poisoned by his cousin Khalid bin Barghash who proclaimed himself the new sultan and held the position for three days before being replaced by the British government after the 40 minute long Anglo-Zanzibar War (shortest war ever)


1.  This photo is also found in the album Reise Erinnerungen page   in the Winterton collection. North Western University USA.138 Album 73 photo 27 (1880-1896)

People playing music in a village in Zanzibar around 1891-1897


People playing music in a village in Zanzibar using a large drum (a so called Ngoma or Vume) and a person playing what looks like a Zomari, a kind of clarinet that sounds like bagpipes. Size 12 by 17 cm. Photo taken by the photographer A. Bluhm.

Note the "snow-white Muscat -donkey"

Princess  Emily Ruete wrote in her 1886 memoirs about a trip form the palace to the plantations: "In the evening the snow-white donkeys , whose tails had been dyed with henna had been inspected. Those of the ladies who did not possess a riding donkey (namely the sarari) borrowed one from acquaintances and friends, or were supplied by my brothers and the eunuchs"

Antique photo Zanzibar musicians

Music being played on Zanzibar and a snow-white Muscat donkey

Zanzibari Music

People who lived in Zanzibar before the revolution always mention the constant sound of music. Singing, dancing etc. Many workers e.g. fishermen singing during their work. For an overview of musical instruments form Zanzibar see reference  page 399-411. Size 12 by 17 cm.

  1. WH Ingrams Zanzibar Its History and its people 1931 page 399-411
  2. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Ethnologisches Museum Ident.Nr. VIII A 22277 Same photo:  title Die Grosse Tromel by A. Bluhm.

Zanzibar Stone-town fruit-market, around 1894 and one photo by J. Sturtz in 1888


Zanzibar Stone-town fruit-market next to the old fort.

Dating around 1894. One photo has the number "40" on it.

Size of both photos 7,5 by 10 cm but with very high resolution.


Antique photo Zanzibar fort

Sugar cane being sold on the market


 Antique photo Zanzibar fruit market

 Banana's and other fruits being sold on the market


 Zanzibar Fruit Market

The above photo of the Zanzibar fruit market was taken by J. Sturtz in 1888 (ref 2)

The market place was also the location for public executions. Wangemann (Ref 1 page 12) writes in 1888 that for many years no executions had taken place, but in December 1888 on two Sunday evenings many people were taken from the fort-prison and decapitated. Possibly the new sultan (he succeeded sultan Barghash in March) wanted to demonstrate his power or the increased criminality / unrest was the reason for the executions.

Antique photo Zanzibar market

Antique photo Zanzibar fruit market, not by Sturtz (photographer unknown)

Size 12 by 9,5 cm

The Zanzibar fruit market:

Two photos taken of the fruit-market in Zanzibar stone-town.The market was located close to the old fort, based on the old watchtower visible on the photo. The wares sold include sugarcane, bananas and coconut. Size of both photos 7,5 by 10 cm but with very high resolution.


  1. Land und Leute in Deutsch Ost Afrika Wangemann (text); Sturtz (photos) There is a second edition of  1890 and a third of 1894. No copy of the first edition is known: Maybe there is a relation of this first edition with of our set of 50 photos which are higher resolution variants of the Sturtz photos in the Wangemann book.
  2. Erinnerung an die Ostafrikanische Blockade und  meiner Reise an bord SMS Carola 1888-1890 (50 original photos, by naval officer J. Sturz, the album belonged to Emil Voelker and have his manuscript captions on the photos) Emil Voelker was on-board the SMS Carola during these events. 

Zanzibar farming. Fruit being carried to the fruit-market in Stonetown around 1894

Slide-show: Fruit carried across the creek to market Zanzibar

 1)Fruit being carried to the fruit-market, just crossing the bridge across the Creek. Stamped A.C. Gomes & Co. This is the mark of the oldest photos by Gomes. The partnership of Gomes with Countinho was dissolved mid 1897.

Size 14,5 by 21 cm.2.Antique photo people brining fruit to the market in Zanzibar

2) Bridge across the Creek, photo below by J. Sturtz 1888 (see ref 4)

Antique photo Bridge creek Zanzibar


3) Traditional  clay home but with street-light in front! (date unclear, but the street-lighting may provide some clues)   Size 11,5 by 17 cm. around 1890


4) Man weaving with his loom, according to the inscription below the photo, the lady on the left is a German lady. As the photo is taken between 1888 and 1890 by J. Sturtz there is a tiny chance it is Emily or Rosalie Ruete, as they spent a large part of 1888 on Zanzibar and there were very few German women on the island.

Weaving ZanzibarFor information on Omani weaving techniques see ref 5

Some rural scenes

While the main crop in Zanzibar was cloves, also many vegetables and fruit are grown like mangoes, bananas and coconut. Please notice the street-lamp in front of the clay home: By  1870 Oil Street lights had been installed along the major streets in Stone Town. These street lights ran out of town, past the harbour, south towards Mbweni.

  1. Emily Ruete, Memoirs of an Arabian Princess,  translated by Lionel Stratchey illustrated, New York Double Page & Company 1907 same photo with the title "Bringing Food into the Town"after page 36.
  2. WH Ingrams Zanzibar Its History and its people 1931 page 399-411
  3. Land und Leute in Deutsch Ost Afrika Wangemann (text); Sturtz (photos) There is a second edition of  1890 and a third of 1894. No copy of the first edition is known: Maybe there is a relation of this first edition with of our set of 50 photos which are higher resolution variants of the Sturtz photos in the Wangemann book.
  4. Erinnerung an die Ostafrikanische Blockade und  meiner Reise an bord SMS Carola 1888-1890 (50 original photos, by naval officer J. Sturz, the album belonged to Emil Voelker and have his manuscript captions on the photos) Emil Voelker was on-board the SMS Carola during these events.
  5. Gigi Crocker Jones, Traditional spinning and weaving in the Sultanate of Oman, published by Historical Association of Oman, 1989 Page 35 shows a similar loom

Two young girls in Omani costume playing and a photo of the interior of the House of Wonders Zanzibar

Young girls in Omani costume Zanzibar

Two stereo photos with the titles:

a) Zanzibar Swahili women with a fetish (?)

b) Throne room of Sultan´s palace

In fact two young girls are wearing Omani masks, Omani wooden shoes, Omani antal anklets and one girl with a silver key around her neck as an amulet. The so called "fetish" is probably just a doll.

Published by Keystone View Company Copyrighted Underwood & Underwood.

Antique photo Omani girls

Stereo photos

Traditional stereoscopic photography consists of creating a 3D illusion starting from a pair of 2D images, a stereo-gram. The easiest way to enhance depth perception in the brain is to provide the eyes of the viewer with two different images, representing two perspectives of the same object, with a minor deviation equal or nearly equal to the perspectives that both eyes naturally receive in binocular vision.Each photo is approx 8 by 8 cm. The card measures 18 by 8,5 cm.

There also 2 stereo (vague) stereo photos known of the slave-market in Zanzibar dating form the 1860´s see e.g. the Winterton collection and the British Library.

  1. Abyssina to Zanzibar 1850s-1950s Catalogue of the photographic archive of the Winterton Africana collection Allsworth rare books 2003 page 119 item 53 nr 9

Arab Women in Zanzibar, antique photo taken around 1890


 Two high resolution original old photographs of Arab women in Zanzibar were taken by photographer Gomes & Co in the 1890's. Years later this photo was used as a postcard. 1890's dating of the photograph based on the photographer stamp "Gomes & Co

antique Zanzibar dress

Latest Zanzibar (indoor) fashion around 1895

antique zanzibar dress

This is the outdoor fashion

  1. The early postcards of Zanzibar 2005 by P.C. Evans East Africa study circle page 38 (and on the front cover of the book)

An Arab lady in Zanzibar

An Arab lady in Zanzibar


Postcard of an Arab lady A.R.P de Lord Zanzibar Printed in Germany.   Issued between 1928 and 1932. An Arab lady: note the bracelets, shoes and silver necklace.

 Antique postcard zanzibar

 Latest Arab fashion  

Identifying the shoes and Jewelry of the Arab lady

Arab / Swahili lady in Zanzibar. Please notice the following details:

  • The Omani wooden  shoes are comparable to the shoes HvWO 007 (in the wood section of our website) However our shoes have silver toe-pins. These shoes were for daily use and not for use in the Bathhouse as many Omani ladies currently believe.
  • The Omani bracelets are similar to the ones in our Silver Bracelets section : Bracelet made of silver wire with red glass beads.
  • The large Omani necklace is similar to the one in the Silver utensils section, titled a thorn tweezer on a very beautiful silver chain.
  1.  Early postcards of Zanzibar by P.C. Evans page 16  

Postcard with Omani men showing off their fine khanjars and swords.

Group of Omani men in Zanzibar khanjars swords


Group of Omani Arabs taken by Countinho brothers in Zanzibar. Original Title " Arabs"  The Omani officials showing off their fine Saidi Khanjars (daggers) and ancient swords. See Evans (ref 1)   page 23 item 7 Published 1903-1911.  




Antique photo Zanzibar Omani men

Omani men, postcard by Coutinho brothers

Photographers: The Coutinho brothers

The Coutinho brothers established one of the first commercial photographic enterprises on the island of Zanzibar, some time in the 1870´s. Probably of Portuguese origin, little is known of their lives. The initial partnership between the two brothers lasted little over a decade, before J. B. Coutinho entered into partnership with A C Gomes & Sons c.1890. Gomes had opened his first studio in Aden before 1869, moving to Zanzibar in the early 1870´s, establishing what was probably the first studio on the island. That arrangement was dissolved on 31st July 1897, when the Coutinho Brothers started trading together once again

Their photographs of life in fin-de-siecle Zanzibar were sold singly and in albums, and form an important visual account of the period. When the photographic picture postcard started to gain popularity in the 1890´s, Coutinho Brothers cards were produced in great numbers, showing tribal characters and cultures, local fishermen and traders, and the architecture of Zanzibar, all clearly aimed at a tourist market. At some point c.1905, the brothers went their separate ways, Felix moving to Mombasa in Kenya, and opening a photographic company there, once again producing tourist images and postcards, but this time trading as Coutinho & Sons

  1. The Early postcards of Zanzibar by P.C. Evans East Africa Study Circle 2005  

Panorama taken at a distance from the sea dating around 1906

Panorama taken at a distance from sea.

Beautiful Panorama taken from the  sea. With purple stamp of Gomes & Sons on the back. Date 1906 in pencil on the back.  Size: 29 by 9 cm.

 Antique photo Zanzibar panorama

 Zanzibar Panorama seen form the sea


 A. C. Gomes established a photo studio in Zanzibar perhaps as early as 1868. He had a brief partnership with J. B. Coutinho in the 1890´s that was dissolved in 1896. A.C. Gomes died in 1917. His son P. F. Gomes continued the family business in Zanzibar for many years, he died in 1932.  


  1. Winterton Collection North Western University Group 56 Album 2 page 4 photo 1

Zanzibar town photo Panorama view HH The Sultan HH The Royal palace (postcard)

Zanzibar Town photo Panorama view 1906

Coutinho Brothers Photographers Zanzibar no 2. (issued by Union Postale Universelle) Panorama postcard with size: 9 by 28 cm. See Evans page 16 (published between 1902 and 1906)

 antique photo Zanzibar panorama



The panorama postcard contains three views:

  • Early panoramic view of Zanzibar stone town, across the fort towards the cathedral. Compare with the earliest photos of Zanzibar stone-town  in my collection 
  • Picture of the Sultan Sheikh Sir Hamoud bin Mohammed Al-Said who died in 1902
  • The palace "house of wonders" reconstructed after the bombardment by the British (The postcard has manuscript text above the panoramic view)

The Coutinho brothers established one of the first commercial photographic enterprises on the island of Zanzibar, some time in the 1870´s. Probably of Portugese origin, little is known of their lives.

  1. Early postcards of Zanzibar by P.C. Evans page 16

Group of 14 early photo postcards of Zanzibar Stone-town 1895-1911

Group of early postcards of Zanzibar stone-town 1895-1910

Collection of antique postcards of Zanzibar by different photographers including: Verlag Albert Aust Hamburg; Verlag Albert Luft Hamburg, Countinho Bros; ARP de Lord; A.C. Gomes & son and P de Lord;

Best source on these cards is the book by Evans (ref 1) However several of the earliest cards by Albert Aust Hamburg are missing in this reference book.


Antique postcard zanzibar house of wonders

House of Wonders before the English bombardment (clock tower standalone)

Early postcard from the 1890's by Albert Aust Hamburg

Zanzibar German American British Consulates Albert Aust Hamburg

German, American and British Consulates

Early postcard from the 1890's by Albert Aust Hamburg

Antique postcard zanzibar

Antique postcard zanzibar boat sultan

Antique postcard zanzibar

 Antique postcard zanzibar

Zanzibar Postcard by Coutinho Brothers

Antique photo Zanzibar Mizigani Road

Note the rails and cart Mizigani Road


Antique postcard zanzibar

Note the canons on the Zanzibar beach, postcard by De Lord

Antique postcard zanzibar

Zanzibar Natives in a boat, postcard by de Lord


Antique photo Zanzibar Creek

Houses along the creek Zanzibar Stonetown

Early postcard from the 1890's by Albert Aust Hamburg


Antique photo zanzibar car

 Zanzibar antique photo Sikuku day

Zanzibar postcard Sikuku day festival

 (marking Eid Holiday at the end of Ramadan)

Antique postcard Zanzibar house of wonders 

Zanzibar postcard Sikuku day festival in front of House of Wonders

 Marking Eid Holiday at the end of Ramadan, postcard by De Lord

Antique postcard Zanzibar elephant tusks

Zanzibar Postcard: Omani carved door and huge elephant tusks 

antique photo Zanzibar Cemetery

Zanzibar Cemetery Zanzibar postcard clove trees

Zanzibar Clove Trees

Description:  The photo slide-show  contains the following 14 postcard images:
  • Sultan Palast (pre 1896) by Verl. Abert Aust Hamburg. One of the oldest postcards that exist of Zanzibar. Not in Evans.
  • 572 Zanzibar vieux cimitiere Arabe by Message Maritimes Evans page 224 item 174 (publish 1907-1911)
  • Aerial view of Zanzibar A.C. Gomes & Son Zanzibar
  • H.H The Sultan´s Barge Zanzibar from 1908. A.C. Gomes & son photographers Zanzibar Dhows in Harbour
  • Zanzibar Dhows in harbor
  • Zanzibar (showing the European embassy and trading house area) verl. v. Albert Aust Hamburg One of the oldest postcards of Zanzibar. Not in Evans.
  • Zanzibar (House of Wonders) verl. v  Albert Aust Hamburg  One of the earliest postcards of Zanzibar. Not in Evans.
  • (Zanzibar street-scene and steamer)Zanzibar Coutinho brothers Photographers Zanzibar  Union Postale universelle 1899-1902  Evans page 11 item 85
  •  Zanzibar  (picture of local huts next to the creek) by Verlag v. Albert Luft Hamburg serie Ostafrika 83 See Evans p2/3 but this card not listed. One of earliest postcards.
  • Zanzibar Mizigani Road A.R.P. de Lord photo artist Zanzibar no 69 1911-1913 See Evans page 104/105 but this card with RR not listed.  Notice the many ancient canons laying on the beach!
  • A street in Zanzibar 1907-1911 Evans Page 227 but without number "184"
  • Zanzibar Mizigani Road  by P. de Lord Photo-artist no 53 Evans page 105 item 53 (47905) 1911-1913
  • Zanzibar Natives of East Africa ARP de Lord photo artist Zanzibar  49508  p 105  item 75, this card missing in Evans published 1911-1913
  1. The Early postcards of Zanzibar by P.C. Evans East Africa Study Circle 2005

Doors of Oman / Zanzibar and Ivory tusks (Four antique postcards)

Slide-show: Oman Zanzibar doors and Ivory tusks

It should be noted that ancient "Zanzibar Doors" used to be found very frequently in old Omani houses and forts. See e.g. the article in Tribute to Oman 1994 "inside the walls" that discusses Muscat. The traditional large Omani ships (dhows) included many beautiful wood carvings similar / identical to that found on "Zanzibar" doors, hence these doors are as much part of Oman as Zanzibar.


Unfortunately many doors in Oman and Muscat in particular have disappeared into thin air over the past four decades. Magnificent examples of these types of doors that disappeared are the doors of the old souq in Nizwa and those of the old Palace in Muscat. The fort of Al Hazm still has magnificent carved doors, if they are still there and not replaced by poor fake new ones.Similar fine woodcarving is also found on the best and genuine antique  so called “Malabar style" Omani wedding chests (Mandus). See our "Wood" section

Antique photo ivory tusks zanzibar


Ivory and Omani doors

Four postcards with Zanzibari / Omani carved doors. Two of the postcards also show large Ivory Tusks.

  • "The two large ivory Tusks showing in the background Zanzibar door" This coloured card was published by Gomes & Sons between 1905 and 1907 Evans (ref 1) page 38 and the front-cover!
  • "Arab carved door Zanzibar" Copyright A.C. Gomes & son Zanzibar. . published between 1920 and 1930. Evans (ref 1) page 59 (375006)
  • "A carved Arab door and two Record Tusks British East Africa" Issued by The standard P & P works Nairobi and Mombasa. Not in Evans
  • "An old Arab carved door Zanzibar" Copyright A.C. Gomes & Son Zanzibar. Evans (ref 1) page 59 (375015) Published between 1920 and 1930.
  1. The early postcards of Zanzibar 2005 by P.C. Evans East Africa study circle page 38 (and on the front cover of the book)
  2. "Doors of Zanzibar"  Photographs by Uwe Rau Text by Mwalim shows many more doors
  3.  Tribute to Oman 1994 "in side the walls" Robert Richmond and Rachael Marskell p 91-97  

Below you find a Yutube film with many old pictures of Zanzibar:


Arab party in Zanzibar

zanzibar arab fair klein


Colored German postcard by an unknown photographer of an Arab party in Zanzibar around 1910. The photo shows two primitive wooden carousels, the flag is probably the red Omani flag. 


Antique postcard zanzibar

The postcard has been produced in Germany with the title " Ein fest der eingeborenen"  Meaning a party of the locals. The postcard was published by 48 C.A.W. Grun Hambg-Ohlsdorf.

A very strange coincidence is that, years later,  in 1924 Emily Ruete was buried in the cemetery of Ohlsdorf, close to Hamburg.  


  1. The Early postcards of Zanzibar by P.C. Evans East Africa Study Circle 2005

Swahili lady in Zanzibar hairdressing using a beautiful locally made wooden comb Photo dates from the 1890's


Rare photo (silver print) There is an early "Coutinho Brothers Photographers" stamp on the back of the photo. Coutinho brothers Zanzibar were active between 1870 and 1905. The started as one of the first professional photographers in the 1870's. A few years later another studio was opened in Dar-es-Salam. Around 1890 the cooperation between the brothers ended and J.B. Coutinho started a studio with A.C. Gomes (who had started as a photographer 20 years earlier in Aden) In 1898 the partnership between J.B. Coutinho and Gomes ended and the Coutinho brothers rejoined. In 1905 the Countinho brothers split again.


antique photo zanzibar ladies hair combing with wooden comb

 Swahili ladies combing Hair in Zanzibar around 1890

See the wood section for an example of a smilar comb


  1. Another antique  print of the same photo is in the Winterton collection of the North Western  university (but that print with a fold bottom right) Zanzibar envelope 62 Object ID: 62-7
  2. Catalogue of the photographic archive of the Winterton collection, published by  Allsworth rare books, London (no date) Page 85 section 62 item 7.

Original photo of Sultan of the Comorro islands with Omani khanjar and ancient sword. Probably Sultan Said Ali bin Said Omar of Grande Comore (1891-1897) + Postcard Anjouan (types Anjouanais)

Sultan of the Comoro´s

Original photo of Sultan of the Comoro´s with Omani khanjar and ancient sword.

Probably Sultan Said Ali bin Said Omar of Grande Comore (1891-1897) + Postcard Anjouan (types Anjouanais)

Please note the man peeping from behind the screen!

Photographer unknown. Size of the photo is 9 by 12 cm. 

Antique photo Sultan Comorro Islands


The Comorros islands .During the 19th century there were quite a few immigrants from the Commores living in Zanzibar. There was even a Commore quarter in Zanzibar city.

In 1866 the large sultanate Ndzuwani on Anjouan island in de Commores was made a French protectorate. The French, the British and the Germans wanted to exercise power and trade on the Commores. On 24 June 1886, the islands of Ngazidja or (Grande Comore in French) comprised eleven sultanates, but, in 1886, the Sultan Tibe (paramount ruler and Sultan) of Bambao unified them, Ndzuwani (Anjouan), and Mwali sultanate (Mohéli island in French) became French protectorates, French residents were posted on the three islands;

On 5 September 1887 they were collectively renamed Protectorate of the Comoros. In 1892 Sultan Said Ali bin Said Omar was banished to Reunion.  On 9 April 1908, France declared the Comoros a dependent territory of its Madagascar colony. On 25 July 1912, the island was annexed by France and joined with Mayotte as Mayotte and dependencies, after the ratification on 23 February 1914 subordinated to the governor general of Madagascar (Comoros dependent colony). Said Ali bin Said Omar went to court. The French judges awarded him a re-compensation for his losses. Saidi Ali ibn Saidi Omar died February 10, 1916 in Tamatave on Madagascar.  Added a later postcard (around 1900) with two Arabs from the island Anjouan also in Omani dress reflecting again the influence of the Arabs of Zanzibar on other islands in the region.  

References: No References

Queen / Princess Djoumbe Soudi (later Djoumbe Fatima) of the island Moheli (part of the Comorro islands). She is wearing Omani dress and jewelery Photo taken before 1873 or earleir.

CDV by trinquart of queeen Djoumbe of Moheli, photo taken around around 1870. She was in Paris in 1868.

CDV (Cart de Visite) by Trinquart Rue de port Mahon,Paris. She was the daughter of Sultan Ramanateka and princess Rovao, who originated from Madagascar.Size 6,5 by 10,5 cm. She reigned the island between 1849 and 1867. She died when she was 42. Her father swore alliance to Said bin Sultan of Zanzibar. On May 26 1849

All her live she was a pawn of local political groups that were pro-French or pro-British. As a child  the French hoped to gain influence in Moheli by sending a French governess named madame Droit. However the French  Oktober 1851, following a revolt, she changed her name to Djoumbe Fatima. In 1852 she agrees to marry a pro British cousin of Sultan Said bin Sultan of Zanzibar named M'Kadara., they got three children. One day M'kadara is on a mission in Zanzibar, but on his return the government of Moheli forbade him entry.  Djoumbe asked the French for help, but because of the great local resistance the problem cannot be solved. Finally Djoumbe Fatima agrees to marry the pro-French prince of Anjouan, Said Omar. This marriage does not last very long and Djoumbe reunites with her years-long lover, the Frenchman Joseph Lambert (1824-1873) Lambert is a wealthy adventurer who did a lot of trade in the Indian ocean.

The Omani dress and jewellery must be linked to her relationship with Zanzibari Omani  M'Kadara the cousin of sultan Said bin Sultan.

 Antique photo Djoumbe Soudi Fatima

Antique photo Djoumbe Fatima photo taken before 1874

Antique postcard Anjouan Omani cloths

Antique postcard with two Anjouan men, Anjou is part of the  Comorro islands,

The two men are wearing the cloths of Omani officials and the Omani Saidi Khanjar (dagger).  A lot of people from the Comoros islands were living in Zanzibar during the 19th century.