It’s hard to find another building like this in Stone Town. Built in 1850 by the then Sultan’s friend—Sheikh Salim bin Bushir bin Salim al Harthi, a wealthy and prominent Swahili tradesman from a prominent Omani tribe, the mansion was meant to outdo the homes of two other rich Omani residents of Zanzibar. Unfortunately, the Sheikh’s friendship with the Sultan lead him to be executed during the 1859 coup, and his mansion was seized by the new Sultan, Seyyid Majid. Majid gave Mambo Msiige to the Universities Mission of Central Africa to use as a Mission House. Some years later, British consul general Sir John Kirk acquired the mansion. Sir Kirk, a botanist and diplomat had been originally part of Dr Livingstones’ entourage and played a signifi cant role in Zanzibar’s history. During Livingstone’s expedition, Sir Kirk was responsible for collecting plant samples, a job that brought him recognition and lent him expert status in East Africa as a science and medical advisor. In fact, the American journalist Stanley came and took help from Sir Kirk before embarking on his search for Dr Livingstone.
When Livingstone died, his body was kept at Mambo Msiige in preparation to be sent to London. During the years, he learnt to speak both Arabic and Swahili; he was hardy enough to tolerate the heat and disease-prone region, giving him an edge over many other visiting British medical practitioners. Sir Kirk eventually stayed back in Zanzibar as medical counselor at the British Consulate. He even lived at Mambo Msiige. A genteel diplomat, he enjoyed great relations with subsequent Sultans of Zanzibar, even playing a part in the final eradication of slave trade on the island. Prints of his photographs of Mambo Msiige’s architecture and Stone Town’s waterfront decorate some of the hallways at Park Hyatt Zanzibar.
Mambo Msiige underwent major restoration in 1887 on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. After 1903, the mansion was used as government offices, and post the First World War, it played host to the European Hospital, dedicated to the care of war casualties. It spent most of the years till 1950s as a British government office for various purposes. Even after the revolution of 1964, when Zanzibar was united with Tanganiyka and became part of the Republic of Tanzania, Mambo Msiige remained a building for government offices. Till three years ago when Park Hyatt took over the property and converted it into a beautiful heritage stay. Each suite comes with a private balcony that overlooks the ocean. The Presidential Suite is particularly expansive—combining the most luxurious aspects of Arab design, colonial touches and Zanzibari style.
The cool fragrant spa on its higher floors offers guests treatments with a view of the Indian Ocean and to the sounds of the crashing waves. At night, moonlight floods the suites that look over the beach, and in the morning you wake up to find locals who come to do yoga and calisthenics on the sand. At sunset, the outdoor bar, pool and restaurant areas are buzzing with guests enjoying the golden-hour on the bougainvillea-edged veranda. Fisherman and locals occasionally use the beach front as an area for cultural events, making the same veranda a great place to view them from.
Produced by: Ruchira Bose
Photographs by: Ashish Chawla.
Styling: Dhwani Sharma (Styledrone by Dhwani)
Make-up and hair: Sunil Gautam
Model: Nikita Sahay
Location: Park Hyatt Zanzibar