"Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar" by Emily Ruete (born Sayyida, Princess of Zanzibar) is a unique book, the only autobiography by a Zanzibari princess of the 19th century.
The author was born in Zanzibar in the mid-1800's. Long ruled by Omani Arabs, Zanzibar had achieved hegemony on the coast of Eastern Africa and had grown rich on the harvest of slaves and ivory from the continent and spices (especially cloves) from Zanzibar island itself. They had spread their influence and Swahili language as far west as Kisangani on the Congo river (the setting for V.S. Naipaul's "A Bend in the River"). Times were changing: European traders and missionaries were the harbingers of colonization for the continent, protectorate status for Zanzibar, and the crusade against the Eastern slave trade.
Sayyida eloped with a German and had to leave Zanzibar. She moved to Germany where she was eventually widowed and alone (her Islamic family in Zanzibar rejected her for marrying a European Christian.) She wrote this book for her children, to provide them a record of her history. In it she describes life in the Zanzibar royal palace and plantations: traditions, customs, palace intrigues and overthrows, the harem, slaves, festivals, manners, the status of women, and so forth. She compares her life in Europe to her life in Zanzibar. This book should be of value to anyone interested in Zanzibar or Eastern Africa, or Arab, Islamic, or Women's studies.
Please see my other reviews of books about Africa.