Vast social change has occurred in the Middle East since the oil boom of the mid-1970s. As the first anthropological study of an urban community in Saudi Arabia since that oil boom, Arabian Oasis City is also the first to document those changes. Based on extensive interviews and participant observation with both men and women, the authors record and analyze the transformation that has occurred in this ancient oasis city throughout the twentieth century: the creation of the present Saudi Arabian state and of a new national economy based on the export of oil and the economic boom brought about by the dramatic increases in the price of oil following the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War. In addition, the authors reveal the changes brought about by the fall in the price of oil beginning in 1982 and analyze the problems confronting ‘Unayzah in its aftermath. By demonstrating that the area was not exclusively dominated by tribalism and Bedouin nomads, this empirical case study destroys stereotypical views about Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it proves the existence—prior to the coming of the modern Saudi Arabian state—of surplus agricultural and craft production and the full development of local, regional, and long-distance trade networks. It shows that women, although veiled, played active roles in work outside the household. The social impact of change over the years is, however, profound—especially the gradual replacement of the extended family by the nuclear family, changing patterns of husband-wife relationships, the impact of self-earned income on the status of women, and the emergence of a new middle class of employees and entrepreneurs.Because of the high degree of gender segregation in this area of research, Altorki and Cole give us a fortunate collaboration between a Saudi Arabian female scholar and an American male scholar experienced in research in the Middle East. Both are professors of anthropology at the American University in Cairo.
A Bedouin asking a fellow tribesman about grazing conditions in other parts of the country says first simply, “Fih hayah?” or “Is there life?” A desert Arab’s knowledge of the sparse vegetation is tied directly to his life and livelihood.
Bedouin Ethnobotany offers the first detailed study of plant uses among the Najdi Arabic–speaking tribal peoples of eastern Saudi Arabia. It also makes a major contribution to the larger project of ethnobotany by describing aspects of a nomadic peoples’ conceptual relationships with the plants of their homeland.
The modern theoretical basis for studies of the folk classification and nomenclature of plants was developed from accounts of peoples who were small-scale agriculturists and, to a lesser extent, hunter-gatherers. This book fills a major gap by extending such study into the world of the nomadic pastoralist and exploring the extent to which these patterns are valid for another major subsistence type. James P. Mandaville, an Arabic speaker who lived in Saudi Arabia for many years, focuses first on the role of plants in Bedouin life, explaining their uses for livestock forage, firewood, medicinals, food, and dyestuffs, and examining other practical purposes. He then explicates the conceptual and linguistic aspects of his subject, applying the theory developed by Brent Berlin and others to a previously unstudied population. Mandaville also looks at the long history of Bedouin plant nomenclature, finding that very little has changed among the names and classifications in nearly eleven centuries.
An essential volume for anyone interested in the interaction between human culture and plant life, Bedouin Ethnobotany will stand as a definitive source for years to come.
The British Empire at its height governed more than half the world’s Muslims. It was a political imperative for the Empire to present itself to Muslims as a friend and protector, to take seriously what one scholar called its role as “the greatest Mohamedan power in the world.” Few tasks were more important than engagement with the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Every year, tens of thousands of Muslims set out for Mecca from imperial territories throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, from the Atlantic Ocean to the South China Sea. Men and women representing all economic classes and scores of ethnic and linguistic groups made extraordinary journeys across waterways, deserts, and savannahs, creating huge challenges for officials charged with the administration of these pilgrims. They had to balance the religious obligation to travel against the desire to control the pilgrims’ movements, and they became responsible for the care of those who ran out of money. John Slight traces the Empire’s complex interactions with the Hajj from the 1860s, when an outbreak of cholera led Britain to engage reluctantly in medical regulation of pilgrims, to the Suez Crisis of 1956. The story draws on a varied cast of characters—Richard Burton, Thomas Cook, the Begums of Bhopal, Lawrence of Arabia, and frontline imperial officials, many of them Muslim—and gives voice throughout to the pilgrims themselves.
The British Empire and the Hajj is a crucial resource for understanding how this episode in imperial history was experienced by rulers and ruled alike.
The Crucible of Islam
G. W. Bowersock Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress BP50.B69 2017 | Dewey Decimal 297.09021
Little is known about Arabia in the sixth century, yet from this distant time and place emerged a faith and an empire that stretched from the Iberian peninsula to India. Today, Muslims account for nearly a quarter of the global population. A renowned classicist, G. W. Bowersock seeks to illuminate this obscure and dynamic period in the history of Islam—exploring why arid Arabia proved to be such fertile ground for Muhammad’s prophetic message, and why that message spread so quickly to the wider world. The Crucible of Islam offers a compelling explanation of how one of the world’s great religions took shape.
“A remarkable work of scholarship.” —Wall Street Journal
“A little book of explosive originality and penetrating judgment… The joy of reading this account of the background and emergence of early Islam is the knowledge that Bowersock has built it from solid stones… A masterpiece of the historian’s craft.” —Peter Brown, New York Review of Books
Doctor Mary in Arabia: Memoirs
By Mary Bruins Allison University of Texas Press, 1994 Library of Congress R722.32.A45A3 1994 | Dewey Decimal 610.695092
Until fairly recently, Arab women rarely received professional health care, since few women doctors had ever practiced in Arabia and their culture forbade them from consulting male doctors. Not surprisingly, Dr. Mary Bruins Allison faced an overwhelming demand when she arrived in Kuwait in 1934 as a medical missionary of the Reformed Church of America. Over the next forty years, "Dr. Mary" treated thousands of women and children, faithfully performing the duties that seemed required of her as a Christian—to heal the sick and seek converts.
These memoirs record a fascinating life. Dr. Allison briefly describes her upbringing and her professional training at Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. She then focuses on her experiences in Kuwait, where women of all classes, including royalty, flocked to her care. In addition to describing many of her cases, Dr. Allison paints a richly detailed picture of life in Kuwait both before and after the discovery of oil transformed the country. Her recollections include invaluable details of women's lives in the Middle East during the early and mid-twentieth century. They add a valuable chapter to the story of modern medicine, to the largely unsuccessful efforts of the Christian church to win converts in the Middle East, and to the opportunities and limitations that faced American women of the period.
Dr. Allison also worked briefly in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and India, and she includes material on each country. The introduction situates her experiences in the context of Middle Eastern and medical developments of the period.
I Saw Her in My Dreams
Huda Hamed, translated by Nadine Sinno & William Taggart University of Texas Press, 2022
I Saw Her in My Dreams is a powerful novel about interpersonal and systemic violence, examined through the lens of a relationship between Zahiyya, an anxious middle-class Omani artist, and Faneesh, the Ethiopian domestic worker she hires. When Zahiyya’s husband Amer, a novelist, leaves for Zanzibar in search of his biological mother, Zahiyya is left to confront her anxieties and prejudices. Both Zahiyya and Faneesh begin to suffer a recurring nightmare, prompting Zahiyya to read Fanheesh’s diaries in search of answers. Alone and afraid, Zahiyya reads excerpts from Amer’s novel, written from his father’s diaries about living in Zanzibar, where he fell in love with Amer’s mother, a Zanzibari woman whose absence still haunts him. Weaving between multiple perspectives and stories within stories, the novel explores honestly—but without sensationalizing or self-Orientalizing—the anti-Blackness that has endured in the Arab world and elsewhere.
Qatar is a country of spectacular contrasts: from pearl fishing, its main industry until the 1930s, to gas and oil, which generate immense wealth today; to famously being at the center of both triumph and controversy in recent years for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Almost a lifetime since he grew up in Qatar, Michael Quentin Morton writes about the country’s colorful past and its astonishing present. The book is filled with stories about the people of this land: the tribes and the travelers, the seafarers and slaves—as much a part of Qatar’s history as its rulers and their wealth. The opaque Arabian world guards its secrets well, but Masters of the Pearl penetrates the veil to shed light on a country that until now has defied explanation.
This book brings together a roster of prominent contributors to present a strategic interactionist perspective on the study of contentious politics in the Middle East in response to the Arab uprisings. The common thread among the contributions is an interest in the micro-level interactions between various strategic players, including not only the mobilisation of protestors during the uprisings but also the responses of regimes. The book also examines short to medium-term adaptations of the regimes and the collective action of opponents in the post-uprisings period, as well as the subsequent trajectories of the protesters themselves in the face of new forms of authoritarianism or democratisation.
‘”From the very first moment they realize that the Hajj—the pilgrimage to Mecca—is among the duties of each and every Muslim, the faithful long to go.”
This book presents Ilija Trojanow’s journey from Mumbai to Mecca in the tradition of the rihla, one of the oldest genres of classical Arabic literature, describing the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy sites of Islam. Every Muslim, regardless of geographical location, is implored by tradition to undertake the Hajj at least once in their life if they are able. Trojanow, with the help of his friends, donned the ihram, the traditional garb of the pilgrim, and joined the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who each year go on the Hajj. Over the course of a mere three weeks he experienced a tradition dating back over a thousand years. This personal and enlightening account will provide insights not only for Muslims who have yet to embark on the Hajj, but for those who have already made the journey and want to see a different perspective on it. Mumbai to Mecca also presents a unique glimpse into this pivotal tradition for those non-Muslims who remain barred from the most holy Muslim sites.
the pilgrimage to the holy sites of Islam, through the eyes of a Westener, but with the heart of a Muslim.
A history of contemporary Kuwait as seen through the life of an individual Kuwaiti.
This book reviews and analyzes the modern history of Kuwait through the life of Abd al-Aziz Sa‘ud al-Babtain, a wealthy businessman, philanthropist, and poet. He is the head of a large, influential international cultural foundation based in Kuwait City. Abd al-Aziz’s life story tightly interweaves with modern discussions on the history of the state of Kuwait. There are very few books taking a collective grip on the history of the state of Kuwait. Likewise, there are very few studies about the generation of Gulf individuals who experienced, benefitted from, and even suffered from the discovery of oil, and who has been a crucial part of socioeconomic and cultural developments in countries like Kuwait in recent history. By constructing a cohesive overview of the modern history of Kuwait enriched by the life of an individual that has lived through the better part of that particular history, this book fills a lacuna in contemporary scholarship on the Middle East, and especially the Arabian or the Persian Gulf.
Qatar: A Modern History
Allen J. Fromherz Georgetown University Press, 2011 Library of Congress DS247.Q35F76 2011 | Dewey Decimal 953.63
What role does Qatar play in the Middle East and how does it differ from the other Gulf states? How has the ruling Al-Thani family shaped Qatar from a traditional tribal society and British protectorate to a modern state? How has Qatar become an economic superpower with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world? What are the social, political, and economic consequences of Qatar’s extremely rapid development?
In this groundbreaking history of modern Qatar, Allen J. Fromherz presents a full portrait that analyzes Qatar's crucial role in the Middle East and its growing regional influence within a broader historical context. Drawing on original sources in Arabic, English, and French as well as his own fieldwork in the Middle East, the author deftly traces the influence of the Ottoman and British empires and Qatar’s Gulf neighbors on the country prior to Qatar’s meteoric rise in the post-independence era. Fromherz gives particular weight to the nation's economic and social history, from its modest origins in the pearling and fishing industries to the considerable economic clout it exerts today, a clout that comes with having the second-highest natural gas reserves in the region. He also looks at what the future holds for Qatar's economy as the country tries to diversify beyond oil and gas. Furthermore, the book examines the paradox of Qatar where monarchy, traditional tribal culture, and conservative Islamic values appear to coexist with ultra modern development and a large population of foreign workers who outnumber Qatari citizens.
This book is as unique as the country it documents—a multi-faceted picture of the political, cultural, religious, social, and economic make up of modern Qatar and its significance within the Gulf Cooperation Council and the wider region.
In Slavery, Agriculture, and Malaria in the Arabian Peninsula, Benjamin Reilly illuminates a previously unstudied phenomenon: the large-scale employment of people of African ancestry as slaves in agricultural oases within the Arabian Peninsula. The key to understanding this unusual system, Reilly argues, is the prevalence of malaria within Arabian Peninsula oases and drainage basins, which rendered agricultural lands in Arabia extremely unhealthy for people without genetic or acquired resistance to malarial fevers. In this way, Arabian slave agriculture had unexpected similarities to slavery as practiced in the Caribbean and Brazil.
This book synthesizes for the first time a body of historical and ethnographic data about slave-based agriculture in the Arabian Peninsula. Reilly uses an innovative methodology to analyze the limited historical record and a multidisciplinary approach to complicate our understandings of the nature of work in an area that is popularly thought of solely as desert. This work makes significant contributions both to the global literature on slavery and to the environmental history of the Middle East—an area that has thus far received little attention from scholars.
*Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language* concentrates on the origins, developments and current directions of the discipline Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL) within the Arab world and partially outside of it during the last 60 years, namely between 1958 and 2018. Considered in this volume are the most influential scholars, authors, educators and those significant works that have contributed to the development of the discipline. In addition, special attention is paid to the TAFL institutes, regarded as epicenters of TAFL activities and important meetings, that allow scholars to gather around the same table and discuss approaches, trends and methods used in the field. All of these aspects converge in one comprehensive study which is enriched by a narration of the main sociopolitical changes that have affected the Middle East in latter-day history.