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