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Middle Eastern

The Sultan's Shadow: One Family's Rule at the Crossroads of East and West

Christiane Bird.
Publisher Random House  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
ISBN 9780345469403
Pages/Publication Date 374/2010
Daedalus Item Code 21864
This item is not available.
A story virtually unknown in the West, about two of the Middle East's most remarkable figures—Oman's Sultan Said and his rebellious daughter Princess Salme—comes to life in this narrative from the author of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts. "As shrewd, liberal, and enlightened a prince as Arabia has ever produced," said explorer Richard Burton of Seyyid Said Al bin Sultan Busaid, who came to power in Oman in 1804 at the age of 15. Over his half-century reign, Said ruled as a believer in a tolerant Islam who gained power through bloodshed and perfidy, an open-minded, intellectually curious man who established relations with the West while building a vast commercial empire on the backs of tens of thousands of slaves. His independent daughter Salme, born to a concubine in a Zanzibar harem, scandalized her family and her people by eloping to Europe with a German businessman in 1866, converting to Christianity, and writing the first-known autobiography of an Arab woman. Christiane Bird paints a multifaceted portrait with violent family feuds, international intrigues, and charismatic characters, including wealthy slave trader Tippu Tip and the indefatigable British antislavery crusader Dr. David Livingstone.

"Reading The Sultan's Shadow is like absorbing history through your skin. By the end, you can almost smell the cloves yourself."—Salon.com

"Bird brilliantly tells of the 19th-century rise and fall of an Omani ruling family, its role in the enormous Indian Ocean slave trade and, unwittingly, through the Princess Salme, the Christianization and colonization of east Africa by Germany. Oman's Sultan Seyyid Said Al Busaidi was generous with his own people but cruel and ruthless with his enemies. He built alliances with the British as he built a lucrative slave trade in his capital of Zanzibar. After Said's death, his favorite daughter, Salme, an independent woman who flatly refused to obey the mores of her day, eloped with a German businessman who soon died in a fluke accident. Bismarck used Salme and her family to gain a foothold in the slave trade; by the time of Salme's death in 1924, her Omani ruling family's fortunes had declined, German power had risen, and the slave trade in Zanzibar had been abolished. Drawing on Salme's autobiography and letters, journalist Bird presents a first-rate cultural and political history that opens a window onto this little-known corner of modern history."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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