16 February 2006

Arabian Princess

I just finished Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar by Emily Ruete. It's a short autobiography of a woman who was born in Zanzibar just off the coast of Tanzania. She was one of the many children of the Sultan of Zanzibar. She lived there till she was in her 20s, then she married a German and went to Europe. Her husband died 3 children and 4 years later.

The book I've linked to above has a different editor and a new translation (it was originally written in German); my copy sticks with the old translation and old terminology, although it explains some of the older, less familiar terms (like Mahometan). I also have a short introduction that doesn't try to do too much interpreting and analyzing. Can I just say how much I dislike most introductions? If you need some expert analysis, put it at the end of the book, please. That's when I'll read it, if I bother.

An Arabian Princess Between Two Worlds: Memoirs, Letters Home, Sequels to the Memoirs, Syrian Customs and Usages also has her memoirs, along with other things listed in the title. I'd like to read this one too.

This really was a fascinating book. She covers many details of her life in Zanzibar, and she tells it the way she sees it. For example, she is pro-slavery and anti-polygamy and defends her positions. It's also interesting to read this account from her point of view. Even though she became a Christian when she married her husband, she doesn't criticize Islam. She sees advantages and disadvantages to both European and Arab culture.

It's also good to read this from a woman's point of view. Few people of her generation could write, so this is a unique story.

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