FINDING YOUR SPIRIT DOOR IN ZANZIBAR

THEY SAY THAT YOU DON’T CHOOSE YOUR DOOR, YOUR DOOR CHOOSES YOU

ONCE YOU SET FOOT IN ZANZIBAR AND ARRIVE IN THE MYSTICAL TRADING CENTRE OF STONE TOWN, YOUR EYES WILL BE DRIVEN TO THE MAJESTIC ZANZIBAR DOORS, FAMOUS FOR THEIR DISTINCTIVE FEATURES, CARVED PATTERNS, AND ARRESTING GRANDEUR. THEY ARE UNDENIABLY BEAUTIFUL JUST AS THEY ARE COMPLEX AND DENSE WITH HISTORY. AT FIRST GLANCE, THEY MAY SEEM LIKE THEY THEY’RE ALL THE SAME, BUT IF YOU TAKE A CLOSER LOOK, YOU’LL FIND THAT THEY’RE ALL UNIQUE IN THEIR DETAIL, TELLING STORIES OF A PAST CIVILIZATION THAT, THOUGH FADED, IS STILL VIBRANT IN LIFE HERE IN ZANZIBAR.

 

ZANZIBAR DOOR IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT

THESE MASSIVE TEAK AND MAHOGANY DOORS ARE REMNANTS OF THE ERA OF SULTAN BARGHASH, DESIGNED TO REFLECT THEIR ARAB AND INDIAN INFLUENCES. WHILE WANDERING THE STREETS OF STONE TOWN, YOU’LL COME ACROSS THE VARIOUS STYLES AND COLOURS MARKING THE 700 PLUS DOORS ADORNING THE HOMES, SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS DATING BACK FROM THE LATE 1800s. THERE IS BASICALLY ONE FOR EVERYONE. OK, NOT REALLY (BUT YOU CAN SHARE ONE IF YOU’RE NOT A GREEDY B**** LIKE ROSE.)

 

THEY ARE ANY ARCHITECT OR INSTAGRAMER’S DREAM. AND, LIKE THE SORTING HAT FROM HARRY POTTER, THEY SAY THAT YOU DON’T CHOOSE YOUR DOOR, YOUR DOOR CHOOSES YOU. (THEY REALLY DO SAY THIS, IT’S TRUE, LOOK IT UP.) WHEN IT COMES TO FINDING YOUR SPIRIT DOOR, IT’S BEST TO START OFF BY IDENTIFYING WHAT AN INDIAN, ARAB AND SWAHILI DOOR LOOKS LIKE.

 

THE ARAB DOOR IS ARGUABLY THE MOST INTRICATE, USUALLY RECTANGULAR IN SHAPE WITH AN INSCRIPTION WRITTEN IN ARABIC ON THE TOP. TAKE A LOOK AT THE OUTERMOST STRIP AND YOU CAN FIND CHAINS CARVED INTO THE WOODEN FRAME, SAID TO PROTECT THE HOME FROM EVIL SPIRITS. YOU’LL FIND LOTUS FLOWERS AND PALM LEAVES HUGGED BY THESE CHAINS, AND ROSETTES CARVED ABOVE.

 

THE CHANCES OF THIS BEING AN ARAB DOOR IS 50/50

AS FOR THE INDIAN DOORS, OR GUJARATI DOORS, THEY ARE USUALLY A BIT MORE SIMPLE IN DESIGN. MANY OF THEM ORIGINATED AS BAZAAR SHOPS, LEADING THEM TO HAVING FOLDING PANELS TO FACILITATE BUSINESS. AN ELABORATE POST, USUALLY DECORATED WITH FLOWERS AND VINES, LINES THE CENTRE OF THE DOOR. SOMETIMES YOU’LL SPOT BRASS KNOBS PUT ON THE SHUTTERS OF BOTH INDIAN AND ARAB DOORS, BORROWED FROM THE STYLE IN INDIA, USED THERE TO PROTECT THEM FROM THE FORCE OF ELEPHANTS. REST ASSURED, YOU WILL NOT HAVE THAT PROBLEM HERE.

 

PROBABLY AN INDIAN DOOR

YOU CAN FIND HYBRIDS OF THESE TWO DOORS WITH HIGH ARCS AND AN ENGRAVING OF THE HINDU TREE OF LIFE ROOTING FROM A CENTRAL VASE. CONVERSELY, THE SWAHILI DOORS ARE MORE INTROVERTED IN STYLE BUT NO LESS BEAUTIFUL. RECTANGULAR AND MODEST, PLAIN AND SIMPLE, WITHOUT ANY ELABORATE DECORATIONS. YOUR AVERAGE-JOES. AT LEAST THESE GUYS AREN’T TRYING TO COMPENSATE FOR ANYTHING.

 

THAT IS A GOOD-LOOKING DOOR

NOW JUST BECAUSE I KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE DOORS, DOESN’T MEAN I KNOW HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE THEM. THIS SHIT AIN’T ALWAYS EASY. BUT WHAT MIGHT ATTRACT YOU TO A DOOR IS NOT ONLY WHAT MARKS THE DOOR BUT ITS ACCESSORIES. I’M TALKING ABOUT BARAZAS, OR BENCHES IF YOU WANT TO CALL A SPADE A SPADE.

 

TYPICAL BARAZA HANGOUT

THESE WERE ONCE THE FACEBOOK OF THE REAL WORLD, A CENTRAL AND SOCIAL MEETING POINT FOR MEMBERS OF COMMUNITIES TO MINGLE AND BOTH BEGIN AND END THEIR DAYS. REAL PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT REAL THINGS. THAT SHIT IS HARD TO FIND TODAY, FOLKS. YOU CAN STILL FIND PEOPLE GATHERING AROUND BARAZAS TODAY, TAKING NAPS, SHARING THE LATEST GOSSIP, PLAYING BAO (SWAHILI VERSION OF CHESS), AND OF COURSE, PEOPLE WATCHING. MY KINDA PEOPLE.

 

MY KINDA PEOPLE
AS FOR MY SPIRIT DOOR, I’M STILL ON THE LOOKOUT, BUT IT’LL PROBABLY FIND ME SOON.

 

 

BIRTHPLACE OF FREDDIE MERCURY
DOORS GALORE – A NEWER HYBRID 
IF I WAS A DOOR, I’D MAKE A HYBRID WITH YOU

 

SHOT BY BOYFRIEND TURNED PHOTOGRAPHER ANGELO PIRES

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