Photography

Zanzibar … a Princess story

The Dhows of Zanzibar

Her name was Salme Princess of Zanzibar daughter of Sultan Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al-Busaid Sultan of Zanzibar and Oman with a Circassian concubine named Jilfidan. She lived a princely life with her brothers and sisters till her romantic encounter with Rudolf Ruete, a German merchant with whom she eloped and finally settled with him in Germany. A true romantic story set in a 19th century exotic island of Zanzibar which has inspired novelists and triggered the imagination of those visiting the island. After the death of her husband, Salme known as Emily Ruete wrote “Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar”. Her book gives an in depth description of her life as a Zanzibari princess as well as her very large family (her father had seventy five concubines and thirty six children) She wrote in great detail many of the palatial residences, which most sadly are either in ruins or destroyed. The island undoubtedly must have been swarmed with royal palaces and bath houses. Among those mentioned were Beit il Mtoni her childhood home, now in ruins and Beit el Sahel (today the Palace Museum built by her brother Sultan Barghash) where she also spend much of her time. She also described the traditions within the royal household as to when a new wife was bought, she would be given jewelry and the head eunuch would appoint a new household for her. Frictions between the Abyssinians and Circassians within the walls of the royal harem were frequent and so were disputes between her brothers following the death of their father – which all reminds me of Noel Barber’s novel “Lords of the golden Horns”. Salme’s book is perhaps the only document offering an inside look of a society that surrounds the Sultan’s palace and life in Zanzibar in the late 19th century. The palaces as Salme described were exquisitely designed especially her beloved Beit il Mtoni with its bath houses and beautiful lush gardens lined with orange trees, gazelles, peacocks, flamingos, guinea fowl, ducks, geese – a joy for the royal children. To get the feel of Princess Salme and her world is to visit the room dedicated to her at the Palace museum in Stone Town. A World Heritage site Stone Town is quite an amazing place to browse around – alleyways flanked with traditional Zanzibari houses adorned with beautiful carved wooden doors depicting the multicultural styles derived from Swahili, Arabic and Indian influences. The world of Salme Princess of Zanzibar is long gone but her memories are still felt by many who visits the island …

Dhow of Zanzibar at sunset

Images taken during my visit to Zanzibar …

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21 replies »

    • Thank you, sometime it is not easy to combine both but as I like the story I guess words naturally flow in :-)

    • Thank you for your wonderful comments. Yes indeed it is a magical place seen through my eyes + lens :-)

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