Stunning, curved Zanzibar, Arabian, Indian doors some of the best
LAST week, I spent seven days in Chongwe district and observed how the high level of construction works along the 44-kilometre stretch separating the district from Lusaka calls for one to have some essential building tools on sight.
This week is being spent in Zanzibar, a beautiful island located on the Indian Ocean, and forming part of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Here, in Stone Town, architecture plays a very important role in the tourism sector because it tells the story of the unique history of the
island. The old buildings, some still occupied, while others are being preserved for historic purposes are a testimony
of the centuries of cultural fusion and trade that has shaped the island over the centuries.
While on tour in Old Stone Town, a world heritage site, a feature caught my eye, the elaborate design of doors on many of the entryways leading
into apartments lined on the twisting curves and turns between the buildings that make up the old part of the city.
Yes, I said the doors caught my eye.
If you are building, and have followed the trend on the Zambian real estate landscape, you will notice many people are now installing huge wooden doors at the main entrance.
These are coming in different textures, depending on the kind of wood used, with mukwa being a preferred favourite of many.
Access to these doors has been relatively easy, if not a tad expensive for many.
Some adverts on some Facebook pages operated by locals have price tags attached to the doors and advertise them as locally made.
If you are building and intend to have one of those doors installed, it would be advisable to check all available sources to get the most affordable and durable version.
Options for your research would include, checking more Facebook pages for those who make the doors, and others who import already made doors, or probably even import one yourself if possible.
Other options, for Lusakabased home builders, would be a drive and walk through Matero and Mandevu markets, which have traditionally been the home of roadside carpentry works in the city. Other towns around the country have a version of such an area. In Kabwe, this would be the Mine Market area, right by the roadside as one drives towards the railing separating the central business district from Luangwa and the Mine Hospital area.
Here, the carpenters can be seen plying their trade and it is easy to negotiate.
For a more formal search, Micmar hardware store would be a good place, as it offers thousands of products to cater for building projects and any home improvement initiatives.
In my search in Lusaka, I have not come across decorations more elaborate than the ones I saw in Zanzibar, as the ones here have a more cultural connotation, with a deep history attached to their origins.
The doors man the entrances to the apartments located in a building built very close to another, with only narrow paved alleys that serve as streets separating them.
They are striking, spectacular and magnificent, because of their huge size and the decorations on them.
The doors, though all wooden, can be distinguished by the type of decorations and the shape they have been carved in. The three common types are Indian doors, Arab doors and Zanzibar doors.
All are elaborate, however, and demonstrate highly skilled artistic craftsmanship. The more wealthy the owner, the more elaborate the decorations.
The walk down the alley was able to help us distinguish the more wealthy apartment owners simply by the grandeur at their doorstep.
According to our tour guide, Saidi, wealthy traders and house owners contract skilled carvers brought in from India for the delicate job of arranging the ornaments on the wood.
The ‘Indian doors’, also called Gujarati doors, are distinguished by their square shutters. Most can be seen along the busy streets where the Indian business families and entrepreneurs live.
Their shops, stocking a variety of clothing, spices and jewellery, are set up along the narrow paved alleys.
The ‘Arabian doors’, on the other hand, are often found with an inscription in Arabic on the top frieze and are richly decorated around the frame.
Many from the old days have a square design at the top, however, in more recent years, some designers introduced semi-circular frames on the ‘Arabian doors’.
The various decorations and ornaments on the door frame represented both artistic displays and cultural beliefs of the owners of the residence.
For example, a chain-like row decoration on the door was believed to protect the entrance from evil spirits, while the custom of putting brass knobs on the shutters was believed to protect the residents from wild animals, especially elephants.
This is contained in the history shared by the Zanzibar National Heritage society.
However, since there are no longer violent wild animals roaming the urban cities, the brass knobs are now placed as a decoration, and to show the wealth of its owner.
The doors we are seeing in Zambia now are less elaborate in terms of decorations, but it could be possible that the idea was coined by someone who walked the streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar.