No one single attraction can beat an afternoon strolling through the narrow streets and winding alleys of ancient Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar. You'll get lost - everybody does - but don't worry, you'll emerge from the cool, shady lanes into the blinding sunlight of the seafront eventually. Until then, you'll find something of interest around every corner - an Arab archway leading into a white-walled square, with the sound of prayer coming from behind the walls of a mosque. Or perhaps you'll stumble upon the Darajani market, with symmetrical piles of oranges, baskets of spices and enormous chunks of fresh fish arranged under palm-thatch shelters.
Ladies will glide past, shrouded in black Islamic headdresses. Old, long-bearded men in white skull caps will look up from their games of Bao or dominoes to greet you gravely as you pass, and small children will take your hand and invite you to join their games in the overgrown remains of Indian townhouses. Remember to keep looking up - below a blue strip of sky, ornate shutters are thrown open and neighbours lean across the narrow gap between their homes to swap gossip and jokes, hang out washing, or just watch the world go by three storeys below.
Look out for Arabic coffee sellers, strolling along the streets with their charcoal braziers and bronze pots hanging from a yoke across their shoulders. Or porters manoeuvring wheelbarrows almost as wide as the alleyways they're passing through, shouting 'hodi, hodi' ('let me pass'). As evening falls, the seafront comes alive with stalls selling fried fish and chicken on skewers, hurricane lamps illuminating piles of squid and octopus and mounds of chips. Sugar cane is pressed through an antique mangle and funnelled into glasses - cool, sweet and instantly refreshing. Small boys strip naked and leap off the sea wall into the oily sea, turning pink as the last rays of the sun fade and the muezzin begins his wailing call to evening prayer.
As well as the magic of the streets, Stone Town does have certain historical buildings that are worth a look. The Palace museum and the Old Fort on the seafront both house collections of furniture and clothing from the days of the Sultans, and the Palace museum has a room dedicated to Princess Salme, daughter of Sultan Said, who eloped with a German businessman in the 19th century. The Anglican cathedral, built on the site of the old slave market, has a crucifix made from the tree under which the explorer David Livingstone's heart was buried. Nearby are the underground chambers in which slaves were kept, forced to crouch on stone shelves less than two feet high.
A spice tour is probably the best way of seeing the countryside around Stone Town and meeting rural communities. Any guide or tour company can arrange a spice tour for you, with one of the best known being Mr Mitu's (tel: + 255 24 2231020). As an alternative to an organised tour, get in touch with a local eco-guide such as Hisdory Jumane (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.earthfoot.org/guides/jumane.htm), who will provide a slightly more personalised and tailormade experience. Guides will take you on a walking tour of the spice farms at Kizimbani or Kindichi, picking bunches of leaves, fruit and twigs from bushes and inviting you to smell or taste them to guess what they are.