2006 The Arab (Omani / Zanzibar) chest by Sheila Unwin

The Arab chest

The Arab (Omani / Zanzibar) chest by Sheila Unwin published by Sheila Unwin /  Arabian publishing Ltd London 2006.

The only book about Omani (Arab) chests. Includes wedding chests, writing boxes and cash boxes.  Also shows the relation with very similar colonial chests e.g. Dutch VOC chests from southern India (Malabar)



The Arab Omani Zanzibar chest by Sheila Unwin


Description: A common book. Sheila Unwin lived in Kenya until the 1970´s. It was during this period she became interested in the history and culture  of the Indian Ocean paying frequent visits to Zanzibar, where she befriended ab Arab family. After the family was forced to flee Zanzibar during the 1964 revolution, she found herself the proud owner of fort chests, thanks to the cooperation of her good friend, Muhammed Matar  Al-Suwaidy.  So she began her quest about the chests unrecorded origins. Her travels to Oman, India, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen were followed by further investigations in Portugal and the Netherlands in pursuit of evidence to confirm her haunches as to their provenance and stylistic origins.

Sheila Unwin has very much elaborated on the first detailed description of Omani (Arab) chests by J.J. Adie in 1947 / 1949  (ref 1)

  1. J.J. Adie A Guide to Zanzibar 1949 page 104-107 contains a detailed description of the different types of Zanzibar "Arab" chests. Main categories Persian, Surat & Bombay chests. This was a copy of an article in the East African Standard in 1947. He also mentions that during the 1930´s Omani chests were being imitated for the tourist trade. These imitations have iron rather than brass studs. .
  2. Unwin published an article on Omani chests in Kenya Past and present Issue 9 1987 p 34 " Dhow trade chests"  (However the chest type differentiation methods are not consistent in these publication)
  3. The annual National Day magazine Tribute to Oman also had some interesting articles relating to Omani / Arab chests.