What is more impressive: to become a king having come from a long lineage of kings, or to become a king having come from a long lineage of the enslaved? In the ninth and 10th centuries, enslaved East Africans were brought to the Ziyadid kingdom of Yemen. By the later 10th century they had become the prime ministers of the kingdom.
One of the last such prime ministers formed a dynasty that was to last for almost a 150 years, repeatedly bouncing back from the political intrigue of their Arab neighbours. Zabid was the capital from which they ruled, and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. They were renowned builders and protectors of the architectural heritage of Yemen. The African Rulers of Medieval Yemen is a book that tells a little known part of the history of Africans in Asia, and of slavery as a whole.
While telling this story it also bravely asserts that enslaved foreigners have earned the moral right to rule any land which they have helped to build. It also looks at the various attitudes that Arabs had towards Africans, and how the latter managed to literally rise above them. A must-listen for those interested in an African history that stands tall and bows to none.
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- stefan derungs