Al-Akhbar English has an article up by Amal Ghazal, author of the recently published Islamic Reform and Arab Nationalism: Expanding the Crescent from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, 1880s-1930s, providing a brief and accessible historical review of the Omani empire (perhaps skewed a little to the Omani perspective), and its former capital Zanzibar, which Omanis refer to as their version of Al-Andaluz. I have to say that one of the things that impressed me the most during several visits to the Arabian/Perisan Gulf over the past couple of years were clear signs of African influence on the Peninsula. It made me think a lot about constructed notions of African vs. Arab identity, and the cultural fluidity that exists throughout the Indian Ocean in general.

That’s the kind of history that isn’t generally celebrated or even taught in schools in the West, and I got the impression that folks on the Arabian peninsula weren’t so used to celebrating their African heritage themselves. So to learn that in Zanzibar there were nationalistic efforts to erase such histories doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

On a tangential note: while many Muslims from West Africa live in Saudi Arabia and throughout the peninsula, in light of a history of the forced separation, it’s fascinating that the majority of African immigrants I would run into in Dubai were Christians from East Africa. Globalization wins again I suppose.