It is hard to describe my experiences of Zanzibar in so many words. I remember returning to England and explaining to everyone that I had caught the 'Zanzibar bug'. Baffled, and alarmed that I had managed to catch some kind of horrendous stomach bug on my travels, my family and friends, as well as keeping me well at arm's length, asked me to explain this mysterious 'bug.' I did then, and still do now, struggle to explain it. Of course I could talk of white sand, turquoise waters and mouth-watering food, as a simple and rather obvious reason to why people can become drawn in to Zanzibar's infectious allure. But, as with many things in life, we can find them difficult to sum up, at least without sounding dull and repetitive, so we turn them into stories. Therefore, let me tell you a story of cinnamon, monkeys and wives, and of the fairy tale of Zanzibar. A place who's name alone feels sultry and exotic to the lips.

Monkey in Zanzibar

Once upon a time...

In years beyond our years, a collection of Islands existed off the Tanzania coast, named Zanzibar. I was told they were nicknamed the 'spice Islands,' and were rich in all things; culture, history, climate and people. For centuries the archipelago played host to a huge array of pirates, stragglers, and foreigners stopping by to replenish and relax. Heavy levels of trading; ivory, spices and gold dominated and flowed throughout the islands. Apparently, there was even an island, named 'Prison Island,' that was supposed to have been home to the wickedest and toughest criminals off the land… but instead had the great fortune of becoming home to a species of giant tortoise.

Door detail, Zanzibar

But that was just the beginning...

Over time, I heard that the islands had simmered down. Their violent history had become yet a thing of the past, and the trading of ivory and slaves, had turned to all things spices; saffron, nutmeg, coriander and cinnamon were just a few of the many enticing and intriguing smells that wafted throughout the islands. The islands had traded in pirates and smugglers; for writers and gentle folk. And they say Scheherazade, a legendary Arabic queen, spun amazing tales from the legend of Zanzibar. It is understood that she based a lot of A Thousand and One Nights on its charm and character. For those of you who haven't read A Tale of a Thousand Nights, or 'Arabian nights' as it's sometimes called, think Aladdin, or Ali Baba… think like that and you are thinking Zanzibar..

Beach view, Tanzania

Let me tell you a secret...

If you go there now, you can get hopelessly lost in the narrow, twisting alleyways. A harem of girls might rush mysteriously past you, in their colourful kangas, giggling behind their delicate veils, and it will transports you back to another time. I found myself sat on a deserted sandy beach, with an ice cold tusker in hand, watching the crescent, moon shaped boats bob gently back into the harbour, as the fishermen return home after a long day. And whilst I sat there, unaware of the time, or the year, I understood why tales were told of such a magical place.

Stone Town, Tanzania

My tale is almost over...

And I have not even mentioned the House of Wonders or the Old Dispensary of Zanzibar... but that can be for another story. Now all is past: the story also, for all stories must come to an end at last. But not Zanzibar's tale, it is still going strong, in mystery, spices and fruit. You can still go today, and see bizarre and wonderful traditions; banana fighting and lipstick fruit. But if you don't believe me, why not go; see for yourself. Catch the 'Zanzibar Bug'.