Swahili-Inspired Interiors and Design

Swahili-Inspired Interiors and Design

June 2024

The architecture and interior design of the Zanzibar Collection epitomises the rich and multi-cultural legacy of the island. From the start, our aim was to preserve the centuries-old traditions of architecture unique to Zanzibar and honour the talent of local craftspeople.

Zanzibar's heritage is a fusion of African culture with Arabic, Persian, and Indian influences. Each of the four hotels has its unique style and decor, but all of them bear an essence of the inimitable Swahili designs and handmade decor. Carved wooden headboards, mirror frames, doors, and Swahili daybeds have been made in quintessentially local designs by homegrown furniture makers.

Contemporary, yet vintage-inspired styles can be seen in the lounger seats, glass-top display tables, side tables and bedside benches. Marvel at the large wall hangings of exquisitely carved wooden frames which demonstrate the amazing talent of the artisans.

The extraordinary Zanzibar doors seen all over the island, but especially in Stone Town, were both aesthetic (signifying the owner’s social class) and functional parts of a house in the old days. We have incorporated this grand style of doorways, fusing intricate Arabesque ornamentation with brass knob-studded Indian techniques.

You will notice large wooden kasha chests that serve as coffee tables or attractive furnishings. Chiselled in detailed patterns or hammered with brass motifs, they were used by well-to-do families as travel chests or to store valuables, with secret drawers and concealed compartments for hiding prized possessions.

Across the Collection is makuti thatching made from dried coconut palm fronds, a very traditional method of roofing homes and buildings across the East African coast. Thatching is a skill passed on from generation to generation, the weaving often done by women in the villages and roof-laying by teams of expert thatcher's.

African fibre-weaving traditions extend into the dining table mats and lampshades of hexagonal basket fish traps over the ceiling lights in outdoor bars and lounge areas. Palm-weaving is one several 'Swahili Experience' activities on offer at the Zanzibar Collection.

From India are woodcarving traditions reflected in the intricate trellis patterns that adorn wooden window frames, door panels, balcony balustrades and archways. Asian inspirations are showcased in assorted brass ornaments of antique, weathered or shiny modern styles. The ubiquitous Arabic dallah (handcrafted brass coffee pot) is still used to serve strong shots of the brew into tiny ceramic cups. At Baraza Resort, the distinctive Middle-Eastern arches and corridors lead into open-air salons furnished with pouffes, short Arab-style couches and brass pot side tables.

Brass lamps, wall lights, large decorative trays etched in floral forms, and waisted end tables are some of the wonderful decorations that became part of Zanzibar's home furnishings. Brass lanterns and vessels ensconced in wall niches were a typical way to store and display decorative items in the residences of well-to-do Zanzibaris. The rich grandeur in the era of the sultans is deeply felt at the Frangipani Spa, with its Arabian Nights theme, Sultan's Bath, scented candles, and low, curtained resting beds with rolled cushions and luxurious fabrics.

For long-term memories of Zanzibar's artisanal heritage, visit the Breezes and Baraza gift shops for some carved items and cultural keepsakes to take home.

Cookie Settings