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The lure of Zanzibar

Zanzibar, a sun-drenched archipelago off the east coast of Arica has long held a fascination for travellers. Its history is an interesting one, inextricably linked, as it is, with the east African slave trade that for centuries brought captives from the heart of Africa to the Ottoman Empire the middle-east and beyond. In addition, the wealth of Zanzibar was underpinned by the growth of valuable cloves and other spices, at the heart of a trading network that spanned the Indian Ocean. Standing at the crossroads of a variety of nations and cultures, the Sultans of Zanzibar presided over a rich and exotic realm, girt with the azure ocean and fringed with palms, a combination of features that appealed to me as a writer. In my version of Zanzibar the sultan is not the exponent of slavery but a figure determined to stamp it out. The 19th Century Zanzibar that Alex Trueman and his friends stumble into is a world far removed from our own evolution of history. In this version, Britain does not even exist, so the possibility of returning there is likewise non-existent. Alex, thrust into the heart of Zanzibari politics, must simply adapt himself to this strange new world and cope with a bewildering range of deadly threats even as cataclysmic forces gather to sweep that world away.

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