A section of the House of Wonders or Beit-al-Ajaib, a landmark building in Stone Town, Zanzibar, which was undergoing renovations has collapsed.

Reports from the scene of the accident on Friday said that some four workers were trapped in the rubble, with efforts to rescue them currently underway.

Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi arrived at the scene and was briefed on the rescue operations which at the historic building.

The Beit Al Ajab is the largest and tallest building in Stone Town and occupies a prominent place, facing the Forodhani Gardens on the old town’s seafront.

It is one of six palaces built by Barghash bin Said, the second sultan of Zanzibar, and is said to be located on the site of the 17th-century palace of Zanzibari queen Fatuma.

The House of Wonders housed the Museum of History and Culture of Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast.

The palace was built in 1883 for Sultan Barghash bin Said.

It was intended as a ceremonial palace and official reception hall, celebrating modernity, and it was named ‘House of Wonders’ because it was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity, and also the first building in East Africa to have an elevator.

The design of the palace is attributed to a British marine engineer and its form introduced new architectural elements into the Zanzibar repertoire, including the wide external verandas supported by cast-iron columns, which allowed for uniquely high ceilings.

The construction materials consisted of an original combination of coral rag, concrete slabs, mangrove shoots and steel beams.


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