An oriental landmark at the heart of Tanzania – the Hamamni Persian Baths! Built at the initiative of Sultan Barghash towards the end of the 19th century, Hamamni was the first edifice ever to serve as a public bath in Zanzibar. The baths continued to be used as such until 1920.
The constructions are often referred to as ‘Persian’ because they were designed by Shirazi architects. The Hamamni Persian Baths were designed as a complex structure with several rooms that included hot and cold baths, toilets, shaving areas, and a restaurant. A wellness centre avant la lettre! The hot water was supplied to the facility by the underground aqueducts, and as exquisite services can’t go for free, access was subject to a fee. As you might imagine, only a few wealthy patrons had access to the baths.
Men and women could equally indulge in the waters of the Hamamni Persian Baths, but at different hours of admittance.
The exotic spa is no longer functional, and there’s no water in the baths anymore, but they are frequently besieged by tourists, being one of the major attractions in Stone Town. Visits however are limited only to some areas of the original complex, as parts of the old ‘wellness centre’ have been converted into private residences (the former restaurant).
From the Horse’s Mouth:
I must have walked past the Hamamni Baths hundreds of times, and never went in. We went in last week and I was so impressed with the place and how well it has been preserved. I wouldn't say the baths themselves are massively interesting - the information signs are quite basic and badly written but there is a flier they will give you which explains more. The engineering of the place is fascinating and you can go round the back and see the wells, boiler room and woodstore that was used to keep the place running. You can also go up the domes and take in the surrounding buildings - not a bad experience at all. Given how cheap this attraction is, you should definitely go.
For a small fee (even cheaper if paid in TZS) we were shown around this very interesting place in the heart of Stone Town. The guide also showed us the roof of the baths. He invited us to have a look in his shop after the tour but it wasn't a problem when we politely declined.