Best Western Plus Zanzibar

Livingstone House

On the northeast side of the town, this old building is now the main office of the Zanzibar Tourist Corporation (ZTC). It was built around 1860 for Sultan Majid (sultan from 1856 to 1870). At this time Zanzibar was used as a starting point by many of the European missionaries and pioneers who explored eastern and central Africa during the second half of the 19th century. David Livingstone, probably the most famous explorer of them all, stayed in this house before sailing to the mainland to begin his last expedition in 1866. Other explorers, such as Burton, Speke, Cameron and Stanley, also stayed here while preparing for their own expeditions. The house was later used by members of the island’s Indian community, and in 1947 it was bought by the colonial government for use as a scientific laboratory for research into clove diseases. After independence and the revolution it became the Zanzibar headquarters of the Tanzania Friendship Tourist Bureau, the forerunner of today’s ZTC.

Livingstone is the best-known of all the European explorers who travelled in 19th-century Africa, and many of his journeys began and ended in Zanzibar. He was born on 19 March 1813 in the village of Blantyre, near Glasgow, in Scotland. In 1841, at the age of 28, he went to South Africa as a missionary doctor. There he married Mary Moffat, a missionary’s daughter. On his early expeditions in southern Africa he crossed the Kalahari Desert and, in November 1855, became the first European to see Mosi oa Tunya (‘the smoke that thunders’), which he renamed the Victoria Falls.

Livingstone made his fourth major expedition from 1858 to 1864 in the area around the Lower Zambezi and Lake Nyasa (present-day Lake Malawi). He was accompanied by Dr John Kirk, another Scot, who joined the expedition as a medical officer and naturalist. After the expedition, in April 1864, Livingstone spent a week in Zanzibar before travelling back to Britain. Livingstone returned to Zanzibar in January 1866 as he had been asked by the Royal Geographical Society to explore the country between Lake Nyasa and Lake Tanganyika, to solve the dispute over the location of the source of the Nile. He left for the mainland on 19 March 1866 and travelled around the southern end of Lake Nyasa.

He was still looking for the source of the Nile when he became ill again with dysentery. He died at the village of Chitambo, a few miles south of Lake Bangweulu (Zambia) on 2 May 1873. Two of his loyal companions, Susi and Chumah, removed his heart and buried it under a tree at the spot where he died. They dried his body in the sun for two weeks, then carried it to Zanzibar, wrapped in bark and cloth, where it was identified by a broken bone in the left arm, once crushed in the jaws of a lion. Livingstone’s body rested at the British consulate before being taken to London for burial. Stanley and Kirk were among the pall bearers at his funeral in Westminster Abbey on 18 April 1874. The tree under which Livingstone’s heart was buried eventually fell down, and a stone monument now stands in its place. However, some of the wood from the tree was made into a cross, and this now hangs in the Anglican Cathedral in Zanzibar Town.

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