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

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Random House Publishing Group, Jun 29, 2010 - History - 374 pages
13 Reviews
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 their capital on the sultry African island of Zanzibar, Sultan Said and his descendants were shadowed and all but shattered by the rise and fall of the nineteenth-century East African slave trade.

“As shrewd, liberal, and enlightened a prince as Arabia has ever produced.” That’s how explorer Richard Burton described Seyyid Said Al bin Sultan Busaid, who came to power in Oman in 1804 when he was fifteen years old. During his half-century reign, Said ruled with uncanny contradiction: as a believer in a tolerant Islam who gained power through bloodshed and perfidy, and as 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 daughter Salme, born to a concubine in a Zanzibar harem, scandalized her family and 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 stunning portrait of violent family feuds, international intrigues, and charismatic characters—from Sultan Said and Princess Salme to the wildly wealthy slave trader Tippu Tip and the indefatigable British antislavery crusader Dr. David Livingstone. The Sultan’s Shadow is a brilliantly researched and irresistibly readable foray into the stark brutality and decadent beauty of a vanished world.

From the Hardcover edition.

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

User Review  - Laurie - Goodreads

The story of a Zanzibar princess is used to look at the history of Zanzibar and the East African slave trade, with insights into the race for African colonization by the major European powers ... Read full review

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

User Review  - John Daly - Goodreads

This is a fun read, describing extremely exotic cultures in Oman and Zanzibar. It intertwines amazing lives: - the Sultan who moved his court from Arabia to Africa, - the Arab Princess who had a love ... Read full review

About the author (2010)

Christiane Bird is the author of A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan; Neither East Nor West: One Woman’s Journey Through the Islamic Republic of Iran; and The Jazz and Blues Lover’s Guide to the U.S. A graduate of Yale University and former travel writer for the New York Daily News, she lives in New York City with her family.

From the Hardcover edition.

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