The great carved doors which open this house are shangani’s most infamous. Born in Zanzibar in 1837, Hamad bin Muhammad bin Juma bin Rajab bin Muhammad bin Said El Marjeb was more commonly known as Tippu Tip, which translates to “the gatherer together of wealth”. According to him, he was given the nickname Tippu Tip after the “Tiptip” sound that his guns gave off during expeditions in Chungu territory. As he was famously known-was the most renowned Arab trader in Africa. The son of a powerful merchant family, Tippu Tip began trading at age 18 in the coastal towns of the Swahili empire.
Afro-Oman ivory and slave trader, explorer, governor, and plantation owner. He worked for a succession of the Sultans of Zanzibar.
In 1880 Tippu built a powerful commercial empire that linked Zanzibar Island Country to the upper Congo, bordering Lake Tanganyika, the central inland, and Bagamoyo on the East Coast. From Bagamoyo, Tippu´s slaves were shipped to Zanzibar for holding and sale to foreign merchants. It is in this Shangani mansion that those slaves were held; transported through a secret underground corridor that ran from the beachfront to the ground floor of the house. A wooden door swung open to release them from the passageway. The opening is still here and although now covered with concrete, an enthusiastic beat on the floor will reveal the hollow sound of the passage beneath.
The ground floor of Tippu Tip’s house is made of 6 rooms, including 2 holding cells, where slaves were held for their 2-day wait in Zanzibar.
The large ivory cellular is also still intact, where tusks were stored before merchants came to purchase them. The middle floor of the house divides the slave’s cells beneath from the traders in the upper rooms. This floor was reserved for a Swahili/Bantu-speaking slave family, who acted as translators for Tippu and his agents on the upper floor. The apartment is where they met to discuss business in the highest room of the house overlooking the Zanzibar channel, with a clear view of Bagamoyo. The large room is an open lounge where he entertained and traded over chai and shisha tobacco until his death in 1905
Today the house of Tippu Tip is privately occupied and permission must be granted for photographs.