When he died in 1865, his very young son inherited the throne, but he never had a chance to rule for the Omani Sultan forced him to move to town where he could be kept an eye on. This last Mwenyi Mkuu died of the smallpox in this building in 1873.
The building’s actual age cannot be established, as no formal records exist earlier than 1836, when it was registered in the first census of buildings conducted by Seyyid Said, the founder of the Omani Sultanate in Zanzibar. Upon the death of the last Mwenyi Mkuu in 1873, it was purchased by a Hindu businessman, Patel, a well-known trader of spices and local products. Mr. Patel added the western and southern wings, which in design and detail reflect his Indian heritage.
Shortly after Patel acquired the building, Tharia Topan, the Honorary Prime minister to the Sultan Barghash, began to do business from the building. Topan was by far the richest man in East Africa. The merchant classes of the maritime trade in East Africa were historically skeptical about paper currency, given its delicacy in seawater and the curse of paper money; ie, more money might be printed than redeemable in precious metals, gold, silver, copper. Nevertheless, the trend toward paper currency by the 1870's became irresistible; hence the merchants were often confronted with sopping cash. ThariaTopan's legendary solution was to cover completely the small plaza between the Spice and the small mosque across the way with rupees laid out to dry. When standing in the entrance of the hotel, it is easy to imagine this carpet of cash, being fervently guarded by a few imposing Swahili and Baluchiaskaris.
After the building was appropriated during the 1964 revolution, it eventually passed into the hands of Mr. Sharbaidi, who owned it at the time Emerson came to Zanzibar in 1989. The two men became friends and often talked about the buildings potential. But at the time, it was still leased to Mr. Sharali Champsi, who had opened the original Spice Inn in 1980.
The Spice Inn was one of the first hotels in Zanzibar after the revolution and one of the few extant when Emerson opened his first hotel, Emerson House, in 1990. After dreaming of restoring this building for years, Emerson and his partners eventually acquired the building in 2006.