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Zanzibar > Pictures and travelogues > Palace Museum, Stone Town

Pictures from the Palace Museum in Stone Town, Zanzibar Island: Sultan's Ebony chairs, Sayyid Saïd bin Sultan, and Elisabeth of Austria.

Palace Museum in Stone Town (Zanzibar): Sultan's ebony chairs

Ebony chairs of Zanzibar's sultan, at the Palace Museum (Sultan's Palace) in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Chairs carved by Chinese artists.

Sultan's Palace (Beit el-Sahel) is located just near the House of Wonders on the seafront in Stone Town (Zanzibar City). It was severely damaged during the British bombardment on August 27, 1896. A new three-story palace was then built on the site. From 1911 until 1964, the Palace was the official residence of Zanzibar's Sultans, including Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah who was overthrown during the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution.

Sultan Jamshid fled into exile to the United Kingdom. His palace, renamed to People's Palace, was used as a government seat.

In 1994, Sultan's palace was converted into a museum about the Zanzibari royal family. The Palace Museum contains a few valuable items Sultan's family left behind. The ground floor of the Palace Museum deals with the international affairs of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, such as international trade treaties. It has also painting of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef I and his wife, Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi).

The other floors deal with Sultans' furniture and various modern amenities that were introduced to Zanzibar under Sultan Barghash. It includes the living quarters of Sultan Khalifa II bin Harub, and his two wives, each of whom had very different tastes in furniture.

The Palace Museum is also home to a permanent exhibition about Emily Ruete (1844–1924) who was born as Sayyida Salme, Princess of Zanzibar. She was a daughter of Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al-Busaid and became pregnant by her neighbor, Rudolph Heinrich Ruete, a German merchant in Stone Town. The couple eloped to Europe in 1866. The Princess wrote an autobiography "Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar"
after the death of her husband.

Palace Museum in Stone Town (Zanzibar): Sayyid Saïd bin Sultan
Portrait of Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al-Said in the Palace Museum in Stone Town (Zanzibar).

Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al-Said (1797 -1856) was the first ruler of the Sultanate of Oman and Zanzibar. In 1840, he moved his capital from Muscat (Oman) to Stone Town (Zanzibar). When he died in 1856, his sons quarreled over the succession. As a result of this struggle, the empire was divided in 1861 into two separate principalities: Zanzibar (with its East African dependencies) and Oman.

Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi) in the Palace Museum in Stone Town
Portrait of Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi) in the Palace Museum in Stone Town (Zanzibar).

On the occasion of the signing of a trade treaty with Austria-Hungary in 1887, Sultan Barghash bin Said was given this portrait of Elizabeth of Austria (1837 - 1898), Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.


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Travel guide and travel directory to Zanzibar with many pictures.