December 1, 2012

Take Me Away in Books...to Saudi Arabia

Take Me Away showcases fiction, nonfiction, and children's books that take place in a specific country and/or within a specific culture.  Take a trip in books!  Look for where we are going next and places we've traveled at the bottom of the post.

This week we are visiting the country of Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab state in Western Asia, consisting of most of the Arabian peninsula, and it is the second-largest Arab state in the world.  Saudi Arabia is not a very old country.  It was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud and began as one of the poorest countries in the world, reliant on limited agriculture and pilgrimage revenues until the oil reserves were discovered in 1938.  Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, but the king must comply with Islamic law and the Quran.  Two of the holiest and significantly historic Muslim sites are located here, Mecca and Medina.  

Here are some pictures of Saudi Arabia:
Oasis in the Desert

The Great Mosque, Mecca

Adorableness

Camel Races


Now here are some books about Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabian life, organized into a variety of fiction, nonfiction, and children's books.

(P.S. There is a list of  the countries and cultures visited in past Take Me Away posts at the bottom of this post. Check them out and discover some good books to read and recommend some, too!)


FICTION SELECTIONS:


Fast-paced and utterly transporting, Finding Nouf is a riveting literary mystery and an unprecedented window into the lives of men and women in Saudi Arabia.
 When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a pious desert guide, to lead the search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. But when the coroner’s office determines that Nouf died not of dehydration but from drowning, and her family seems suspiciously uninterested in getting at the truth, Nayir takes it upon himself to find out what really happened. He quickly realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab worker at the coroner’s office who is bold enough to bare her face and to work in public. Their partnership challenges Nayir and forces him to reconcile his desire for female companionship within the parameters imposed by his beliefs. 



Banned in several Middle Eastern countries (including Saudi Arabia), this novel records the encounter between Americans and Arabs in an unnamed Gulf emirate in the 1930s. As oil exploration begins, the destruction of an oasis community amounts to "a breaking off, like death, that nothing and no one could ever heal." The promise inherent in the creation of a city divided into Arab and American sectors provides the novel's most striking revelation: here not merely two cultures, but two ages, meetand stand apart. Alternatively amused and bewildered by the Americans and their technological novelties, the Arabs sense in their accommodation to modernity the betrayal of their own traditions. Highly recommended, if only for its cross-cultural insights. 



It’s the second decade of the twenty-first century, and terrorism has escalated almost beyond control. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem has been blown to bits by extremists and, in retaliation, thousands have died in another major attack on the United States. New weapons are being spawned in remote basement labs. No one feels safe. In North America, the FBI uses cutting-edge technology to thwart domestic terrorists. Sat-linked engine blockers stop drug-traffickers cold; devices the size of Magic Markers test for bio-hazards on the spot; 3-D projectors reconstruct crime scenes from hours-old evidence; and sophisticated bomb suits protect against all but the most savage forces. Despite all this, the War on Terror has reached a deadly stalemate. Now the FBI has been dispatched to deal with a new menace. Like the Anthrax threat of 2001, a plague targeted to ethnic groups-Jews or Muslims or both-has the potential to wipe out entire populations. But the FBI itself is under political assault. There’s a good chance agents William Griffin, Fouad Al-Husam, and Jane Rowland will be part of the last class at Quantico. As the young agents hunt a brilliant homegrown terrorist, they join forces with veteran bio-terror expert Rebecca Rose. But the plot they uncover-and the man they chase-proves far more complex than anyone expects.



When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world. Now in English, Alsanea’s tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home. 



It is the fourteenth century and one of the most apocalyptic events in human history is set to occur–the coming of the Black Death. History teaches us that a third of Europe’s population was destroyed. But what if? What if the plague killed 99 percent of the population instead? How would the world have changed? This is a look at the history that could have been–a history that stretches across centuries, a history that sees dynasties and nations rise and crumble, a history that spans horrible famine and magnificent innovation. These are the years of rice and salt. 

This is a universe where the first ship to reach the New World travels across the Pacific Ocean from China and colonization spreads from west to east. This is a universe where the Industrial Revolution is triggered by the world’s greatest scientific minds–in India. This is a universe where Buddhism and Islam are the most influential and practiced religions and Christianity is merely a historical footnote. 

Through the eyes of soldiers and kings, explorers and philosophers, slaves and scholars, Robinson renders an immensely rich tapestry. Rewriting history and probing the most profound questions as only he can, Robinson shines his extraordinary light on the place of religion, culture, power, and even love on such an Earth. From the steppes of Asia to the shores of the Western Hemisphere, from the age of Akbar to the present and beyond, here is the stunning story of the creation of a new world.  



 In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. In A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers takes us around the world to show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy’s gale-force winds. This taut, richly layered, and elegiac novel is a powerful evocation of our contemporary moment — and a moving story of how we got here.



NONFICTION SELECTIONS:


The ultimate biography of the warrior-politician who founded Saudi Arabia in 1932 and created one of the world’s most powerful nations.
Ibn Saud grew to manhood living the harsh traditional life of the desert nomad, a life that had changed little since the days of Abraham. Equipped with immense physical courage, he fought and won, often with weapons and tactics not unlike those employed by the ancient Assyrians, a series of astonishing military victories over a succession of enemies much more powerful than himself. Over the same period, he transformed himself from a minor sheikh into a revered king and elder statesman, courted by world leaders such as Churchill and Roosevelt. A passionate lover of women, Ibn Saud took many wives, had numerous concubines, and fathered almost one hundred children. Yet he remained an unswerving and devout Muslim, described by one who knew him well at the time of his death in 1953 as “probably the greatest Arab since the Prophet Muhammad.” Saudi Arabia, the country Ibn Saud created, is a staunch ally of the West, but it is also the birthplace of Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Saud’s kingdom, as it now stands, has survived the vicissitudes of time and become an invaluable player on the world’s political stage. 24 black & white photographs 



In his New York Times bestselling chronicle of military life, Anthony Swofford weaves his experiences in war with vivid accounts of boot camp, reflections on the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family.
When the U.S. Marines—or “jarheads”—were sent to Saudi Arabia in 1990 for the Gulf War, Anthony Swofford was there. He lived in sand for six months; he was punished by boredom and fear; he considered suicide, pulled a gun on a fellow marine, and was targeted by both enemy and friendly fire. As engagement with the Iraqis drew near, he was forced to consider what it means to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man.



It all begins with an ad in the newspaper. When Jean Sasson, a young Southern woman living in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, answers a call to work in the royal hospital in Saudi Arabia, what should have been a two-year stay turns into a life-changing adventure spanning over a decade. Over the years Jean is plunged into the hidden lives of the veiled women in Riyadh, where women are locked in luxurious homes and fundamentalist mutawas terrorize the streets. Jean meets women from all walks of life--a feisty bedouin, an educated mother, a conservative wife of a high-ranking Saudi, and a Saudi princess the world knows as Princess Sultana--all who open a window into Saudi culture and help to reshape Jean's worldviews. AMERICAN CHICK IN SAUDI ARABIA is the first installment in a heartfelt, inspiring memoir about Jean's thirty-year travels and adventures in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.



In an age of plastic knives on planes, Tony Wheeler can make the extraordinary claim of having visited all the rogue countries currently on newreaders' lip.Badlands is a witty first-hand account of his travels through some of the most repressive and dangerous regimes in the world: Afghanistan, Albania, Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. Taking into account each country's attitude to human rights, terrorism and foreign policy, he asks 'what makes a country truly evil?' and 'how bad is really bad?' - all the while engaging with a colorful cast of locals and hapless tour guides, ruminating on history and debunking popular myths. Written by the founder of Lonely Planet, this fascinating account of life in these closed-off countries will appeal to anyone with an interest in the state of the world today.



Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess, a woman born to fabulous, uncountable wealth. She has four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, glittering jewels, designer dresses galore. But in reality she lives in a gilded cage. She has no freedom, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons. Hidden behind her black floor-length veil, she is a prisoner, jailed by her father, her husband, her sons, and her country.Sultana is a member of the Saudi royal family, closely related to the king. For the sake of her daughters, she has decided to take the risk of speaking out about the life of women in her country, regardless of their rank. She must hide her identity for fear that the religious leaders in her country would call for her death to punish her honesty. Only a woman in her position could possibly hope to escape from being revealed and punished, despite her cloak and anonymity.

Sultana tells of her own life, from her turbulent childhood to her arranged marriage--a happy one until her husband decided to displace her by taking a second wife--and of the lives of her sisters, her friends and her servants. Although they share affection, confidences and an easy camaraderie within the confines of the women's quarters, they also share a history of appalling oppression, everyday occurrences that in any other culture would be seen as shocking human rights violations; thirteen-year-old girls forced to marry men five times their age, young women killed by drowning, stoning, or isolation in the "women's room," a padded, windowless cell where women are confined with neither light nor conversation until death claims them.By speaking out, Sultana risks bringing the wrath of the Saudi establishment upon her head and te heads of her children. But by telling her story to Jean Sasson, Sultana has allowed us to see beyond the veils of this secret society, to the heart of a nation where sex, money, and power reign supreme.



Middle Eastern food draws on the exotic tastes of various styles of cooking and combines them in a blend of unusual yet simple tastes for mouthwatering dishes. It is easy to prepare, wonderful to look at and offers an amazing variety of healthy dishes, making it the ideal cooking style for the health-conscious.

In The Middle Eastern Cookbook, you will discover the rich, aromatic flavors of countries where food is an intrinsic part of the culture and the sharing of meals with family and guests is a feature of daily life. From Tabbouleh and Dolmas to Chicken Salona and Baklava, Middle Eastern cooking is a delicious collection of wonderful tastes, colors, and rich textures.

Renowned food authority Maria Khalife has gathered together a collection of the best of Middle Eastern cooking. The recipes are easy to follow, use ingredients that are readily available and are accompanied by colorful and succulent photographs. 


A Californian paramedic answers an advertisement for contract work at a military hospital in Saudi Arabia. So his adventure begins. This is a riveting, factual account of his ten years inside a country seldom seen by the outside world. Working on the private medical staff of King Abdullah, no western writer has ever been this close to the "House of Saud". The author takes you on a journey from the desert camps of the Bedouin to the highest echelons of the Saudi royal family. From meetings between King Abdullah and Yasser Arafat to the death of Edi Amin the author documents it all. Themes explored include the contrast of cultures and the rise of terrorism in a post 9/11 world. The author's unique and often humorous perspective provides a view of Saudi society that has never before been documented by any other book in this genre. The author gives an important insight to events that continue to affect the world today. 



CHILDREN'S BOOKS:


Presents information on the geography, history, government and economy, arts, people, and social life and customs of Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Middle East.



Teens in Saudi Arabia (Global Connections) by Nicki Yackley-Franken 
Saudi teenagers embrace their families and religious customs. Their world is a mixture of traditional Islamic views and values with luxuries and technologies afforded by the nation's oil wealth. Modern life has brought more independence to teens in this traditionally strict culture. What will these teens do with the responsibility that comes with their new freedoms? Teens in Saudi Arabia is part of Global Connections, a series that uncovers the challenges, pastimes, and customs of teens around the world.



 Going to Mecca by Na'ima B. Robert
"Come with the pilgrims
as they set out on a journey,
a journey of patience
to the city of Mecca."

We are led on the journey of a lifetime to the city of Mecca — the pilgrimage known to Muslims as the Hajj. The pilgrims walk with heads bare and feet in sandals; they call to Allah; they kiss or point to the Black Stone, as the Prophet did. Arriving at Mecca, they surge round the Ka'aba, shave their heads and travel to Mount Arafat. Finally, though their bodies are tired and aching, their spirits are uplifted, knowing that with thousands of others they have performed the sacred pilgrimage.

This is a window on to a sacred journey for Muslims the world over — beautifully described and illustrated for younger children.




 Ali and the Magic Ball by Wayne Edwards
Ali is a gorgeous Persian cat that lives in Saudi Arabia with his owner Jill. While sitting on a rooftop, he dreams of being able to fly over the city's tallest and most magnificent tower. One night, with the help of a magic ball and a genie, his dreams come true. Ali's flight, however, turns into a nightmare. Confronted by out-of-this-world objects and a gigantic sandstorm, will he make it back home safely to his owner? 



How Many Donkeys?: An Arabic Counting Tale by Margaret Read MacDonald and Nadia Jameel Taibah
Jouha is loading his donkeys with dates to sell at the market. How many donkeys are there? His son helps him count ten, but once the journey starts, things change. First there are ten donkeys, then there are nine! When Jouha stops to count again, the lost donkey is back. What's going on? Silly Jouha doesn't get it, but by the end of the story, wise readers will be counting correctly - and in Arabic!  



This is, of course, just a sampling of books on Saudi Arabian life for you to read. Do you want to recommend/share books that are about Saudi Arabians? Or do you want to share other thoughts?  Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back for our next trip in books! :)

Here is what is coming up next:

The Central American country of Costa Rica
The Distinct Cultures of the Creole and Cajun Peoples
The African country of Nigeria


Where we've been so far in our literary travels:
Australia, Pacific Islands
New Zealand
Fiji

4 comments:

  1. Such beautiful pics! Wow. And thank you for the book recs, too. :)

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  2. Quirky BookandFilmBuffDecember 1, 2012 at 11:09 PM

    Great list! I love the variety in your Around the World posts.

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  3. Wonderful, unique feature. I enjoyed reading it, thank you :)

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  4. Thanks! It is lovely to see that you guys enjoy these posts! :)

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