Zanzibar old Slave Market

Continuing my Zanzibar Travel guide journal with a visit to the old Slave Market in Stone Town.

This wasn’t a planned visit I was shooting in the Darajani market and walked around the area then I stumbeled upon the sign of the former slave market.

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Even though the former slave market is a small touristic place (a quick tour of the place is around an hour or less) it is limited to the old chambers and art monument but it is really an emotional trip worth making

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Today only two of the 15 chambers are accessible. They are located under the St. Monica’s Hostel, which was built in 1890 above the slave chambers. The house was used to accommodate teachers, nurses and nuns working at the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa and in the missionary hospital in the extension of the building. The house now offers hostel accommodation and a restaurant as well as a gallery with a crafts shop

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15 chambers under the earth were used for storing the slaves. The chambers had low ceilings and tiny windows. Sea water running through the damp rooms functioned as toilets.

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The slaves were chained on the bare stone, separated in male and female compartments. Many did not survive the cramped living conditions due to exhaustion and sickness.

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Behind the cathedral there is a stone sculpture of five slaves in a pit, tied with original iron shackles and chains.

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To fetch a higher price, the slaves were often cleaned before taken to the market in the late afternoon. Men and boys had their skins oiled and females were dressed in nice cloth, sometimes even adorned with necklaces and bracelets.

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Lined up from the smallest to the tallest they had to walk through the market, whilst their owner announced their price. Prospected buyers had the possibility to inspect physique, mouth, teeth and eyes of the slaves. A large tree was used as a whipping post to show the strength of the slaves.

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Those who did not cry fetched a higher price.

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After being sold to the highest bidder, slaves were brought to the plantations or houses of their new owners on Zanzibar or shipped to other destinations.

Following the closure of the Slave Market by Sultan Barghash in 1873, missionaries bought the site and built the Anglican Cathedral (Cathedral Church of Christ) on this location and freed slaves helped with its construction under the guidance of Bishop Edward Steere. The altar of the cathedral stands on the spot of the whipping tree

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A window is dedicated to Dr. David Livingstone, the initiator of the abolition of slavery. The church’s crucifix is made from the wood of a tree in Zambia, under which the heart of Livingstone is buried.

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The entrance fee including a guide to the former Slave Market, St. Monica’s Hostel and the Anglican Cathedral is USD 3 per person

  • Sheen Johnson

    Well written with relevant photographs…