Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Shopping in the United Arab Emirates: What I Read This Trip!

Nearing the end of April I must say this has been a very full-on busy month for me personally and although I've kept my tweets up-to-date I haven't overlooked the impact my social life (mainly sun-lounging) has had on my blogging (less posting). I did try to write a bit on my trip but you all know how it is on holiday when you're timing is off and you've got things to do and people to see. Although various social commitments lined up by 'husband' were fab and well worth it, it did leave me with less time to do what I do best in life: Read books!

On the other hand though, I should not be complaining because it has in retrospect been a refreshing and diverse reading time. I did take advantage of my brief stay in the UAE to read books by local Emirati authors. I started with no expectations at all only to be pleasantly surprised by the plethora of upcoming talent in the country. This is a region that flourishes on stories passed on from generation to generation through its elders but the young have taken it upon themselves to record the stories albeit with modern twists and to concoct their own in ways that are insightful of the region's peoples, culture, traditions and yet plausible to its modern-day educated reader.

Again, for fear of sounding like I'd been twiddling my thumbs in between visits to Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World, Marina Mall, and The Emirate's Palace and dinners at the swanky Fairmont Hotel's Frankie's (where I had the most interesting discussion about today's young in the Middle East with a very prominent ME analyst) and the Souk at Qaryat El berri (the best Lebanese restaurant in town), I did manage to finish four works of fiction written by four Emirati female authors; Ameera Al Hakawati's 'Desperate in Dubai' (published in English), 'The Sand Fish' by Maha Gargash (published in English), 'The Night Counter' by Alia Yunis (published in English) and 'A virgin, a Guardian and a Magician' by Sarah Al-jarwan Alkaabi (published in Arabic). Reviews of all these books are one my list of to-do items and will be posted in the next two weeks. 

Looking at my choices I could be accused of being biased to female authors but it is more than that. The UAE is a modern Islamic country that boasts of multiculturalism and equal opportunities to both men and women of its society. In spite of the "westernized" facade, it remains a patriarchal country that relies heavily on its faith and traditions in solving modern-day demands. What I wanted to know is what are women in such a society in such a day and age writing about? Having personally held conversations with quite a few young and somewhat older Emirati women, they came across as educated, well- aware and out-spoken about the issues of today's world and the difficulties they face. I wanted to find out if that was reflected in what was being produced and presented as the nation's literary legacy. I do have a few points on this issue that I feel is worthy of its own post.

I also managed to finish E.L.James' trilogy "Fifty Shades of Grey", "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" on my Kindle. Boy, were they amazing getting me through the worst of my flight's turbulence. So grateful was I to have them on my eight-hour journey from and to the UK and also for my three-hour trip from Jordan to Abu Dhabi that I tweeted James and thanked her. I am so glad for the success of this trilogy and no matter what some 'literary' critics will say, I personally think it was about bloody time that this erotic kind of fiction made a come back. Where is its niche? Somewhere I gather between Mills&Boon and Smut. This is mummy porn and really quite frankly delightful.

Women authors were not the only ones to catch my eye. I was very privileged to be handed a copy of journalist, political analyst,writer and Dubai resident Suleiman Al Hattlan's recently published book "Alsharei ya fakhamat al Ra'ees". Al Hattlan also happens to be on the Editorial Advisory Committee of the soon-to-be-launched (May 6, 2012) Sky News Arabia. The book deals with the repercussions that led to the Arab Spring and discusses the Middle East's social hindrances that the Middle Eastern societies are facing and will have to address before any real possible and concrete political reformation can be established. Making peace with the past, accepting past defeats and forever forward with an eye to the distant future are main points of the book. The book's only downside is that its author has chosen to publish in Arabic only although English speakers interested in the state of the Middle East would do well to read it.

I love twitter. It has introduced me to a whole range of authors and their books. One was Paul Craig's "While You Are Sleeping" trilogy (check review HERE) and recently 'The Istanbul Puzzle' by Laurence O'Brien (in paperback as well as on Kindle); A truly enjoyable book and as reluctant as I am to make suggestions to people based on what they've read (stops people from expanding their reading options) I will will make an exception in this case and say that if you enjoyed 'The Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown, you will certainly enjoy this book.

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