The Mtoni Palace is located just north of Maruhubi and it was as built between 1828 and 1834 for Sultan Said on the site of an older house believed to have belonged to Saleh bin Haramil, the Arab trader who imported the first cloves to Zanzibar. Mtoni, which means ‘place by the river’, is the oldest palace in Zanzibar.
One of Sultan Said’s daughters, Princess Salme in her book about her life on Zanzibar, describes Mtoni Palace in the 1850s: it had a large courtyard where gazelles, peacocks, ostriches, and flamingos wandered around, a large bath-house at one end and the sultan’s quarters at the other, where he lived with his principal wife, an Omani princess whose name was Azze.
According to Salme, over 1,000 people were attached to the sultan’s court in the palace. She described how the sultan would pace up and down on a large round tower overlooking the sea, where he could see his fleet anchored off the shore. In 1885, the palace at Mtoni had been abandoned and left in ruins. Today, only the main walls and parts of the roof is left of the palace.
Between Zanzibar town and Bububu village, run dala-dalas on Route B. To get to the Mtoni palace, turn left off the main road onto a dirt track, about 2km north of Maruhubi. There is a small signpost.