- Title: ZANZIBAR: Zanzibar's Stone Town receives facelift
- Date: 1st January 2009
- Summary: ROOFTOP TERRACE VARIOUS OF RESTORED STONE TOWN BUILDING
- Embargoed: 16th January 2009 12:00
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz
- Reuters ID: LVA3OHVL4WOJKRQ1N2EAGHA3B0IV
- Story Text: Zanzibar continues rehabilitation of its ancient Swahili coastal trading town, Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of efforts to restore the town's former glory.
The open-air street food market in Stone Town's Forodhani Park is a culinary highlight of any trip to Zanzibar island, off the coast of mainland Tanzania.
For only a few U.S. dollars, tourists and locals feast on local specialities like seafood kebabs, roasted cassava and "Zanzibar pizza" -- dough stuffed with egg, meat and vegetables.
But in recent years the park has become run-down from the pedestrian traffic. Sewage, drainage, and infrastructure problems were making the park a health hazard.
Since January 2007, vendors have been relocated to this narrow alley in Stone Town so the park can be restored.
Khamis Hamad, locally known as "Mr. Cassava", has been roasting cassava at the night stalls for over 30 years.
"Because the condition of the park had declined, the environment was not encouraging for our customers and they were not very comfortable, even though they used to come to eat here. During the rainy season, it was even worse. So we expect once the park is completed, we will have more customers," said Hamad.
The park project is part of a larger initiative to restore Stone Town to its former lavish glory.
Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar's city and was a major trading post between Asia and Africa for centuries.
Forodhani park was once the landing point for the former Sultans of Zanzibar and remains one of the few open spaces in Zanzibar's densely populated Stone Town, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The park rehabilitation, which cost 2.5 million USD is expected to be complete by March or April 2009.
The rehabilitation is spearheaded by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in co-operation with funding agencies and the government of Zanzibar.
The AKTC has been involved in restorations of Stone Town since 1989.
Mohamed Bhaloo is one of the first Zanzibaris to have worked with the AKTC and is the project co-ordinator. He believes the rehabilitation of Forodhani Park will help boost tourism on the island.
"This park is an entry for the tourist when he comes to Zanzibar and by restoring this park, it is going to earn a lot of revenue for the Zanzibari government. And it will be an example for other institutions about how to conserve and preserve these types of places, which are very important for the environment, for the investment and for the tourist sector," said Bhaloo.
After the Zanzibar revolution in 1964, many foreigners living in Zanzibar were forced to vacate their Stone Town properties.
The buildings were taken over by the government and rented out cheaply to peasant Zanzibari families.
Without regular maintenance, many of the homes are now on the verge of collapse.
Some decrepit properties have been bought or leased by foreign entrepreneurs and transformed into high-end hotels.
The 15-room boutique Al-Johari Hotel is the latest of such ventures. It opened in December 2007 and was created by joining and restoring two dilapidated buildings.
Over the last 19 years, the AKTC has also been involved in 11 public and family building restorations. 18-year old Alauiyya Juma's home is one of them. The building, home to seven families, had already partially collapsed and was leaking when the work began.
"I have a friend, she is a neighbour here and she still lives in very poor conditions. Whenever she comes to visit, she sees the difference, the toilet and she wants the same improvements done to their house. They want their house to be re-built like ours. Their houses are very bad. When you go down the stairs, you shudder," she said.
With more than a hundred homes in Stone Town in need of serious repair, there are calls for a comprehensive programme to train tenants on home maintenance to keep the Stone Town's unique Swahili culture, from its buildings to its cooking, alive.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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