Shihrazad's Baths: 1001 Tales of Zanzibar Nights

  • Laura Basell (Invited speaker)
  • Mark Horton (Contributor)
  • Ella Egberts (Contributor)
  • Firoozi Nejad, B. (Contributor)
  • Nicholas Mellor (Contributor)
  • Abdallah Ali Khamis (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Abstract: Many of you will know me as a prehistoric archaeologist so may wonder what I’m doing talking about historical archaeology! The research presented in this paper springs from a workshop focussed on “Embracing the Cultural Heritage of Eastern Africa” held in Zanzibar during June 2017. The workshop incorporated practical sessions on the use and value of terrestrial laser scanning, drone and ground penetrating radar in African archaeology. Unanticipated outcomes were the surveys of a cave system and Kidichi Persian baths. In this talk, I shall present the first archaeological survey of the ornate baths. The baths were built for or by Shiharazad, a wife of Zanzibar’s nineteenth century ruler Said bin Sultan (1806-1856). Laser scanning the ornate plaster stucco was used to clarify two inscriptions, the precise meaning of which had been lost. By combining archaeological survey results with historical research, and a translation of the inscriptions, a new narrative is presented in which the main protagonist is, unusually, female. Her captivating story raises a host of questions relating to heritage, gender, religion and politics in modern-day Africa and beyond, whilst our survey raised questions relating to the tensions between materiality and virtual reality, modern and ancient technology.
Period22 Nov 2018
Held atUniversity of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational