Conservation and Design Guidelines for Zanzibar Stone Town

The 'Conservation and Design Guidelines' are intended for anyone planning or undertaking building works in the historic Stone Town of Zanzibar. The Stone Town is a unique cultural asset, but badly designed modern buildings and ill-conceived repairs using incorrect techniques or materials are threatening its survival. The Guidelines explain how to protect the Stone Town. They include an explanation of how to design new buildings in compliance with the law, an analysis of traditional stone structures and common causes of failure, detailed descriptions of traditional building technologies and up-to-date conservation techniques, and advice on how to plan and execute repairs to traditional buildings.

These Guidelines have been drawn up to protect the traditional character of the Stone Town. The Stone Town is very special. There is nowhere else in the world like Zanzibar Stone Town. Visitors come from from all over the world to see it. There is nothing like the Stone Town in the rest of Tanzania. It is one of the things that makes Zanzibar different from the Mainland, and special. It is an important part of the island's unique cultural identity. Zanzibar should be proud of its Stone Town.

The Stone Town is the embodiment of Zanzibar's long and great history. It is proof that the island was once the greatest power in Africa, and a great Islamic state. But the Stone Town is delicate. As times change, people wish to change their buildings, or need to carry out repairs. But these changes, unless properly guided, can destroy the Stone Town's special character. Like a shell on the beach, slowly eroded by the waves, each change takes something away, and soon the Stone Town will lose its beauty and fineness, and become like a pebble. If the Stone Town is destroyed, visitors will no longer come to Zanzibar, and the economy will suffer. The best way to preserve the special character of the Stone Town is to repair and maintain buildings using the correct methods, but otherwise to leave them as they are. If changes cannot be avoided, then the changes must be influenced by these Guidelines.

The law requires anyone wanting to do building work in the Stone Town to first ask permission from the STCDA. The STCDA's job is to guide people wishing to do building work so that the changes they make and the building methods they use do not destroy the special character of the Stone Town. The STCDA will judge the building application according to these Guidelines. If the building application follows the Good Practice Guidelines, approval by the STCDA will be quicker and easier.

Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture


Battle, Stephen, and Tony Steel. Conservation and Design Guidelines for Zanzibar Stone Town. Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 2001.

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Aga Khan Trust for Culture