Following the restoration of Baltit Fort in Northern Pakistan, the Old Dispensary in Zanzibar is the second major historic building restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture since its establishment of the Historic Cities Support Programme in 1992. As in the case of Baltit Fort, the Zanzibar restoration project was complemented by a wider urban planning and conservation effort, with a view to guiding and controlling future development in the sensitive area of the Stone Town. A cosmopolitan city which developed and flourished in the context of Arab and European marine trade, Zanzibar has now become an attractive tourist destination, and the Stone Town is subject to increasing pressure as a result of modern development. The planning surveys and proposals, carried out in close co-operation with the Zanzibar Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority on the basis of earlier efforts sponsored by UNCHS Habitat (United Nations Conference for Human Settlements), are presented in this brochure in summary form, since a separate monograph entitled Zanzibar: A Plan for the Historic Stone Town has recently been published by the Trust.
Of the four "action areas" presented in the Stone Town Conservation Plan, the sea front is perhaps the most representative quarter. It is here that boats from Portugal, from the Arabian peninsula, from India, from England, and even from the Americas crossed each other, exchanging merchandise and contributing to the cosmopolitan character of Zanzibar. It is here that the Omani Sultans, their dignitaries, and rich Indian merchants built theirpalaces, government buildings, and public facilities. It is here that a sequence of formal and informal open spaces emerged and still constitutes, today, the open-air "living room" and the most prominent focus of the growing city.