Princess Salme - Behind the Veil

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About this event

Princess Salme - Behind the Veil
The Life and Writings of Sayyida Salme,
Writer and Teacher (1844 - 1924)
17 April - 22 June 2001

The Brunei Gallery will host Behind the Veil, an exhibition of the life and writings of Sayyida Salme (1844-1924), daughter of the first Omani Sultan of Zanzibar. Launched at the House of Wonders Palace in Zanzibar, July 2000, the touring exhibition provides a unique opportunity to glimpse behind the veil of a rich cultural heritage of Zanzibar and the life of a pioneering woman writer and teacher.

Sayyida Salme, daughter of the first Omani Sultan of Zanzibar, stands out as the only known woman in the 19th Century Zanzibari Court, who breaking the tradition, taught herself to write, which she did in secret by copying calligraphy from the Quran onto a camel shoulder blade.

A collection of her personal possessions, writings and photographs, along with readings in English, Swahili and German brings to life the unique cultural and historical milieu in which she lived, and the achievements of this pioneering woman. The exhibition will highlight her role as an ambassador for the country of her birth, the contemporary relevance of her ideas on and commentary about cross-cultural awareness, appropriate health care, literacy and education for women as well as her unique non-European and female ethnographic commentary on nineteenth century Europe.

Her writings celebrate her Omani heritage, describes her life in Zanzibar, Aden, Syria and Germany. They also describe her struggle as a minor pawn in the diplomatic battles of her time over world trade and the scramble for Africa; and evokes her life as a German citizen during the Franco-Prussian and the first World Wars.

Her ideas and commitment to appropriate health care, literacy and education, especially for women were visionary and put her ahead of her time - all of which are of real relevance in our contemporary world.

Her thoughts and deeds have inspired the establishment of the Princess Salme Institute who present you with this exhibition.

Princess Salme Institute
Telephone: 020 7 240 0199 FAX: 020 7836 4049
E-mail: or

The exhibition is the outcome of extensive research carried out by Said el-Gheithy, with the support of surviving relatives of Sayyida Salme in Germany, Holland, Brazil and Zanzibar, and with a fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

The exhibition will subsequently travel to the Bait Al- Zubair gallery in Oman.