'Mtoni' resurrects the famous palace - now in ruins - in a historical narrative tracing Zanzibar's colonial history and rise to become capital of the Swahili empire.
A modest construction by many royal standards, the 'palace by the stream' hid the best part of her illusive beauty behind her walls. Mtoni was an architectural paradise only the sultan, his family and their servants could ever see, including Persian and Omani baths and a watercourse running through stunning gardens.
The 'Mtoni' drama features the central figure Princess Salme binti Said of Zanzibar. An icon for many reasons (her rebelliousness, political treachery and forbidden love to name only a few) Salme (a.k.a Emily Reute) had a tumultuous destiny after leaving her Mtoni home.
In her memoirs she unwittingly described some of the most intricate and private architectural details about the palace ever recorded. Architects and researchers used parts of her narrative to reconstruct the ruins and resurrect the palace with hand drawn illustrations and photographs from the 18th and 19th centuries.
If you've been seduced by the cosmopolitan flavour of Zanzibar, you'll enjoy reading about the East African 'seat of power' of Mtoni.
Mambo book review is sponsored by A Novel Idea Bookshop