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Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar

Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar



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.


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.

Emily Ruete

Emily Ruete was an author and a Princess of Zanzibar and Oman. She is the author of Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar.


Emily Ruete était une écrivaine et une princesse de Zanzibar et d'Oman. Elle est l'auteur d'une autobiographie, les Mémoires d'une princesse arabe, publiée en Allemagne en 1886, puis au Royaume-Uni et dans d'autres pays. Cette œuvre constitue un témoignage, rare à l’époque, sur la cour royale de Zanzibar et sur cette société insulaire, loin des récits exotiques alors à la mode. 

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