The Sultan's Shadow by Christiane Bird
One Family's Rule at the Crossroads of East and West

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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.

About Christiane Bird

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Christiane Bird is the author of 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., and coauthor of Below the Line: Living Poor in America. A graduate of Yale University, she lives in New York City.
Published June 23, 2010 by Random House. 401 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction

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The New York Times

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In this Zanzibari history, a sultan’s daughter chooses exile.

Sep 08 2010 | Read Full Review of The Sultan's Shadow: One Fami...

The Washington Post

This trafficking in human lives was then, and remains now, far less known than the West African trade that fed markets in the New World, but it was big business: "During the mid- to late 1800s, when Seyyid Said and his sons were in power, over a million Africans may have been abducted from East a...

Jul 11 2010 | Read Full Review of The Sultan's Shadow: One Fami...

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