If you like to prepare for upcoming trips by reading both fiction and non-fiction accounts, ideally by local authors, here are some books to help immerse yourself in local culture and create a connection with the place before you get there:

  • Gravel Heart by Abdulrazak Gurnah is an intriguing novel about a young boy who grows up in Zanzibar, then moves to the United Kingdom, while a family secret haunts him. It describes his life and thoughts in both places, making them both come to life. It is wonderfully written, and with the current plight of immigrants in the world, it was an interesting insight into the mind of someone trying to find their place.
  • Memoirs of an Arabian Princess by Emilie Ruete is believed to be the first book written by, and about, an Arabian woman. Although there are doubts as to the authenticity of the book, it is still an interesting account of life in the palace. Written in 1886, the book is currently in the public domain, and thus easy to access.
  • The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley was one of the most absorbing books. It is a book of many parts, and each works with the rest to paint a complete picture, a book we’d highly recommend.   
  • Death in Zanzibar by M.M. Kaye is written in the style of an Agatha Christie murder-mystery. It showcases a Zanzibar from times gone by while the protagonist gets caught up in a murder investigation.
  • Slaves, Spices and Ivory in Zanzibar by Abdul Sheriff was an interesting account of the history of Zanzibar, from its rule by the Portuguese to the establishment of the British Protectorate. It is very well researched and straightforward.