Monday, May 18, 2015

The Palace of Wonders

I walked along the dilapidated marble to Beit al-Ajaib, the Palace of Wonders.  A bare-footed scruffy homeless man walked in behind me to the museum entrance.  I stood there at the front desk, but no one was there.  And it didn't look like anyone had really been there in a while.

I looked around and at the Swahili and English signs that designated it a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001.

Since no one seemed to be coming, I pushed the huge spiked door that was slightly ajar.

There was a huge Zanzibar dhow in the center of the dark museum.  The lights were off but light spilled through from the giant sky light above.

I had just the slightest feel of being somewhere I shouldn't, but the spidey sense was not tingling strongly.

I was reading the signs on the migration of people when the scraggly homeless guy walked in barefoot, smoking his cigarette.

I walked over and admonished him for smoking in a museum, even a closed one.

I walked back over to the exhibits, then back out to see if anything had changed.  Still no there.  A walked back in to the museum.  From the back, a fellow walked out.  He looked official but not really.

He said I had to pay to enter, so I walked back out and over to the desk.

"Pay 5,000 shilling ($2.50)," he said.

The laminated sign said 6,000 shillings.

"Will you give me a ticket?" I asked.

No tickets.  No more tickets.

He thumbed through some worn sign-in date books as I gave an incredulous eye.  He produced a dated date book--the last entry was in April.

"No ticket, and it's 5,000 shilling?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"With no ticket, I think I will just walk in.:  And I did.

Back into the empty, dark Palace of Wonders.

I lingered for a bit in the Palace-turned-closed museum before making my way back out into the high noon sun.

No comments: