Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar
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Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar

by Emily Ruete, Patricia W. Romero, Markus W. Wiener
     
 
"[A]n intriguing account of court life in an outpost of the Islamic empire in Africa." Journal of World History

In 1844, Salamah bint Saïd was born into royalty of the sultanate of Zanzibar and Omar.

She was the youngest out of Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al-Busaid's thirty children and daughter of a Circassian concubine, and through her early years spent

Overview

"[A]n intriguing account of court life in an outpost of the Islamic empire in Africa." Journal of World History

In 1844, Salamah bint Saïd was born into royalty of the sultanate of Zanzibar and Omar.

She was the youngest out of Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al-Busaid's thirty children and daughter of a Circassian concubine, and through her early years spent in a variety of great palaces she experienced vast wealth.

This is the story of Saïd's life, written after she had left Zanzibar and eloped with Rudolph Heinrich Ruete to Germany to begin life under her new name, Emily Ruete.

From an early age she was witness to the intrigue and politics of the harem, even involving herself at the tender age of fifteen to the factional infighting and an attempted coup by her brother Barghash against another brother.

But this is more than merely an interesting story of one Arabian princess's life in East Africa, as Saïd provides a fascinating insight into the social and cultural history of Zanzibar.

She writes on numerous topics from schooling to fashion, medical treatment to slavery, thus giving a vivid impression of when she lived.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ruete could be the subject of a thrilling romance. As Romero ( Life Histories of African Women ) explains, she was born in 1840 as Salme, princess of Oman and Zanzibar, and grew up privy to the machinations of her father's harem and of her scores of siblings. Following her father the sultan's death in 1856, Salme participated in one brother's unsuccessful coup to wrest the throne from another. Despite strictures confining Islamic women, she trysted with a German who is thought to have impregnated her, fled to Germany where she converted to Christianity, changed her name, married her lover, bore three children and was soon widowed. Ruete relates few of these escapades; instead she provides a disingenuous account of harmonious life at the palace. Despite the profusion of concubines, Ruete claims that Arabs predominantly practice monogamy; her father is a beneficent king--although Romero states that he attained power by murdering a cousin. The disparity between introduction and text, the latter translated from the German, generates a peculiarly successful tension, enhanced by carefully recorded details of court life. Illustrations not seen by PW . (Sept.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558760110
Publisher:
Wiener, Markus Publishers, Incorporated
Publication date:
11/01/1989
Series:
Topics in World History Ser.
Edition description:
REVISED
Pages:
326

Meet the Author

After she married Rudolph Ruete and converted to Christianity, they spent the rest of their lives in Hamburg. She wrote Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar in German in 1886. It was the first known autobiography of an Arabian woman. She died in 1924 in Germany at the age of 79. This edition was translated by Lionel Strachey and published in 1907. Strachey died in 1927.

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