The first known autobiography of an Arab woman

Ruete, Emily, Princess of Oman and Zanzibar. Mémoires d'une Princesse Arabe. Traduit de l'allemand par L. Lindsay.

Paris, Dujarric & Cie., 1905.

Small 8vo. (6), 330 pp. Contemporary half calf with marbled boards and giltstamped spine. Marbled endpapers.


First French edition of this fascinating biography of the Princess of Oman and Zanzibar, who married a German and later fled to Aden and Hamburg after becoming pregnant by him. The work is considered the first known autobiography of an Arab woman. It presents a remarkable perspective on the daily life of the Sultan in the mid and late 19th century, viewed from the eyes of an well-educated woman - subjects such as "La situation de la femme en Orient" ("A Woman's Position in the East", ch. XVI), courtship ("La mariage arabe", "Arab Matchmaking", ch. XVII), harems and polygamy, and even slavery are discussed at length (the Princess appearing rather favourably disposed to the latter!). As a later Christian convert, she remains fiercely proud of her homeland: "But it is just in Arabia, and with the Arab people, that the true Mahometan spirit, upon which the views of other Eastern nations are founded, has maintained itself most pure" (transl.). Her view of Muslim life represents the level-headed appreciation of a native of both East and West: "I have seen too many of such unhappy cases [of Christian marriage] to make me believe that Christian wedlock stands on a higher level or renders people much happier than the Mahometan [...] it is quite a fallacy to think that woman in the East is placed socially on a lower level than man. The legitimate wife - the purchased Sarari are of course to be excepted - stands in all respects on a par with her husband, and she always retains her rank, and all rights and titles emanating from it". Emily (Sayyida Salme) and her husband lived comfortably in Germany until the latter's death in 1870, upon which Emily was prompted to write the present work partly to alleviate her financial concerns.

Evenly browned throughout. Rare.

OCLC 38270253. Cf. Hiler 763 (English ed., New York, 1907).