The former Slave Market is located on the eastern side of Stone Town, within short walking distance of the main market. Today, the Anglican Cathedral and St. Monica's Hostel stand on the location of this historical site.
During the reign of the Omani Arabs in the early 19th century, Zanzibar was the main slave trading point of East Africa. Slaves bought and caught on the mainland were shipped to Zanzibar, where they were re-sold and further transported to Seychelles, Mauritius, Oman and Persia. In those days, the slave market of Stone Town was easily accessible by sea, as the artificial extension of land had not occurred yet. 15 chambers under the earth were used for storing the slaves. The chambers had low ceilings and tiny windows. Sea water running through the damp rooms functioned as toilets. The slaves were chained on the bare stone, separated in male and female compartments. Many did not survive the cramped living conditions due to exhaustion and sickness.
To fetch a higher price, the slaves were often cleaned before taken to the market in the late afternoon. Men and boys had their skins oiled and females were dressed in nice cloth, sometimes even adorned with necklaces and bracelets. Lined up from the smallest to the tallest they had to walk through the market, whilst their owner announced their price. Prospected buyers had the possibility to inspect physique, mouth, teeth and eyes of the slaves. A large tree was used as a whipping post to show the strength of the slaves. Those who did not cry fetched a higher price. The whip used was often the tail of a stingray.
After being sold to the highest bidder, slaves were brought to the plantations or houses of their new owners on Zanzibar or shipped to other destinations.