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Zanzibar Swahili door noted since 16th Century of the Portuguese

Swahili door carving is an ancient tradition. The Portuguese noted in the 16th : “doors are of wood, well carved, with excellent joinery”. A typical Swahili door is square-framed, made of locally available termite-and weather-resistant teak, mango or jackfruit tree timber. The doors consist of interlocking members; outer doors had dhow nails or iron studs across them in several lines to hold the planks together, and a hasp and chain to lock them from the outside.

Door carving was closely linked with dhow building and trade.The decorative motifs were related to mercantile and seafaring activities, including the use of rope,chain,wavy line and fish scale patterns.Fish designs were used at the base of the side posts.The doors might be ringed by a chain design to symbolize security.The lintels could be decorated with rosettes and often bore an inscription from the Qur-ani.

Swahili doors are double doors that open inwards from the centre.The most elaborately carved part is the centre post,with floral and geometric motifs, which is attached to the left leaf,called the female leaf, and covers the junction of the doors.

The Old Fort door is a more elaborate Zanzibar (Omani) door, with an inset small door that can be entered without opening the heavy gates.

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