BY OUR CORRESPONDENT – ZANZIBAR
Among the Zanzibar tourism attractions is the Bi Khole Palace ruins situated at Bungi, Central District in the Sothern Region of Unguja. The ruins are situated near the seashore in the Bungi Shehia, 19 kilometres from the Zanzibar Town.
The Bi Khole Palace was built in the 19th Century by the grandchild of the first Zanzibar Sultan. Bi Khole’s father, Seyyid Humud bin Ahmed, who died in 1876, was the uncle of Seyyid Said bin Sultan. Bungi was a big plantation area which was owned by Bi Khole’s father, Humud bin Ahmed bin Seif who cultivated clove and coconut trees.
It is reported that Bi Khole was exceptionally beautiful and attractive to any person who passed by her. Unfortunately she was not married.
According to traditional narratives, Bi Khole changed her first residence at Bububu and moved to Bungi, due to family misunderstanding that ensued after her father’s death.
She left Bububu with all her slaves majority of whom were those she inherited from her father and the number increased as the need arose.
After her decision to stay at Bungi, Bi Khole built a luxurious palace near the seashore as her residence; at present, the structure that was once her residence remains as Bi Khole historical ruins. The palace was surrounded by a fence that ran along the seashore and the ground at the front was used for drying cloves.
Bi Khole was a famous woman in the 19th Century due to her courage and ability to manage her slaves and the surrounding community. Due to that fact, many stories were narrated about her life and personality as she was among few people in Zanzibar who owned big clove plantations.
Bi Khole is remembered from an old saying that developed from her behaviour: ‘Pishi ya Bi Khole’, literally meaning ‘Bikhole’s measure’.
‘Pishi’ is a measuring container that clove pickers used to measure cloves they had picked in a day and were paid according to the number of ‘pishis’ one had picked. The first ‘pishis’ were carved from wood, but what mesmerised people of that time was the fact that Bi Khole’s ‘pishi’ was extraordinarily large compared to other ones. That being the case, clove pickers had to put more effort to be able to fill Bi Khole’ ‘pishi’. When talking about that ‘pishi’, many people related it to the behaviour of greediness or the habit of not being satisfied with what one had had and said, ‘he or she is not satisfied like Bi Khole’s measure’ or ‘he or she is greedy lie Bi Khole’s measure’.
Among the historical records present in that area are the palace ruins and a vast plantation of old mango trees found along the main road heading towards the villages of the South Unguja region . The mango trees, numbering about 1000, were part of the beautiful garden that adorned the towering palace in the Bi Khole’s dominion at Bungi.
In her final days, Bi Khole reportedly wrote a will to liberate her salves and the plantation attendants to be the rightful heirs of her estate. Currently, Bi Khole’s Palace ruins are protected by the Government under the supervision of the Zanzibar Department of Museums and Antiquities as a Gazetted historical site.
All in all, the landscape of the area is a big attraction that one could visit and learn ancient history of the natives and foreigners who lived in Zanzibar.
Due to the significance of its history, Bi Khole Palace ruins are visited by majority of tourists who enter Zanzibar and have become a centre which tour guides bring their clients.