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Few place names on earth conjure up mystique and romance quite like Zanzibar - the "Spice Island", playground of the sultans, meeting point between Africa, Arabia, and Europe. With its impossibly white beaches, crystal clear ocean, abundant marine life, and rich history, it is not hard to understand how Zanzibar captures the imagination as the perfect tropical island paradise.

But there has always been a sinister undercurrent to this free-wheeling outpost that was, for centuries, the center of the eastern slave and ivory trade. First-time visitors to modern Zanzibar are often struck by the relatively derelict state of historic Stonetown, the apparently opportunistic beach/ocean development, and the stark wealth differential between the resorts and the local population.

In short Zanzibar is a complex destination whose inclusion in an itinerary requires some careful deliberation. On balance, the good outweighs the bad, but it's important to know what to expect, and to choose a location that best matches your main interests and priorities. It is also worth noting that there is more than one island in the Zanzibar archipelago, and there are alternatives that might be better suited than Unguja (Zanzibar) Island itself.

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