Local consequences of global recognition: The “value” of world heritage status for Zanzibar Stone Town

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Akbar Keshodkar, Zayed University

Document Type

Book Chapter

Source of Publication

World Heritage, Tourism and Identity: Inscription and Co-production

Publication Date



© Laurent Bourdeau, Maria Gravari-Barbas and Mike Robinson 2015. In 2000, Zanzibar Stone Town (ZST) was designated a World Heritage Site (WHS). The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Heritage Committee indicated that ZST earned this designation because it represented, “an outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization” and served as “a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. .. retain[ing] its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and containing many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture,” bringing together and homogenizing disparate elements of cultures from around the Indian Ocean.1 This description of Zanzibari heritage fails to recognize the history of struggle and hardships that continue to epitomize Zanzibar as a socially and ethnically diverse and politically contested country (Keshodkar 2005). However, as others have already rejected notions of Zanzibar as a harmonized culture (Bissell 1999; Syversen 2007), this chapter will examine other dimension of the heritage discourse. The hardships and quality of life experienced by ZST residents question the “value” of the global designation imposed on them. This chapter argues that given the present physical state of ZST, it is the continuing dilapidation and the rising poverty and hardships of its residents that is celebrated by the World Heritage designation, as the quality of life and access to resources and services for these residents could substantially improve if many areas of ZST were torn down and replaced with more modern facilities and infrastructure.





First Page


Last Page



Social and Behavioral Sciences | Tourism and Travel

Scopus ID


Indexed in Scopus


Open Access