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LET HISTORY SURPRISE YOU.
LET HER STORY INSPIRE YOU.

This is a page for learning and discovery—you can add your thoughts below.

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Sayyida Salme, who was born an Omani princess in Zanzibar in 1844, is pictured here in her mid-20's after becoming Emily Ruete and starting her new life and family in Germany.

What can we learn from someone:

 

who secretly taught herself to write, when it was taboo for women and girls to do anything more than read?

who found love where it wasn't allowed, but still followed her heart, even if it meant apostasy and self-exile?

whose determined self-expression took her from rank and privilege to the brink of depression and poverty?

who was the first Arab woman ever to publish a book, originally written as a single mother for her children?

who shared insights that bridged East and West, spoke her mind, corrected the record, and did not fear controversy?

Meet Sayyida Salme, later Emily Ruete, whose authentic voice lives on in Memoirs of an Arabian Princess. and Letters to the Homeland. Through these two companion books, her story still speaks to us many generations later in ways that make the past present and, if we're listening, can reveal our own selves.

After reading Sayyida Salme's/Emily Ruete's Memoirs and/or her Letters and thinking about her life—her choices, her experiences—here are some of the many questions she raises for me.  What questions does she raise for you?

What happens when you breach boundaries and become separated from your origins? 

Do religion and culture still restrict our freedom and constrain our self-expression today?

Does education need more heart than head?

What do we make of fate? 

Who knew that Zanzibar and Oman were such big players in the 19th century? 

What can we learn from a monarchy family dynasty that is older than the American Republic?

How do confident, assertive women find themselves in patriarchal societies?

Where does the long history of colonizing and empire building leave us today? 

Can we compare "white" slavery and "black" slavery, or "Arab" slavery and "Western" slavery? 

How should we view someone who shared prevailing racist views, but was also othered? 

What does it mean to treat a translation as a primary source? 

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History does 

not repeat,

but it rhymes.

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Submit your own questions, thoughts, or answers below, and we may add them to this page.  Let us know if you want them posted anonymously or with attribution.

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