Banned in Saudia Arabia, this is a blistering look at Arab and American hypocrisy following the discovery of oil in a poor oasis community. Abdul Rahman Munif was a Saudi novelist. His work so offended the rulers of Saudi Arabia that many of his books were banned and his Saudiā€¦ More about Abdelrahman Munif. Category: Historical Fiction. Add to Cart. Also available from:.

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Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? When oil is discovered in a poor s Arab village, the religious, historical, and cultural confrontations that occur between the natives and the American colonizers threaten to destroy a way of life.

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Next page. From the Inside Flap udia Arabia, this is a blistering look at Arab and American hypocrisy following the discovery of oil in a poor oasis community. No customer reviews. How does Amazon calculate star ratings? The machine learned model takes into account factors including: the age of a review, helpfulness votes by customers and whether the reviews are from verified purchases.

Review this product Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Verified Purchase. I realize the translator has been critical of reviews that suggest that this novel is about oil. Okay, so it is not about oil, but it is about an oil boom, particularly the impact that the boom has on the small Bedouin community where it takes place. Munif's boom has much in common with oil booms that took place in Pennsylvania and Texas and with the gold rush that initially began on Gen.

Sutter's ranch in California, as related in Blaise Cendrars' "Gold. In beautiful prose, Munif exposes the culture of this oasis village bit by bit, character by character. The village, perhaps like most of Saudi Arabia, is extremely conservative. Before the arrival of the oil explorers, the Bedouins had experienced almost no exposure to other customs, styles of dress, religious beliefs or technologies. Employment by the oil company puts some money in the Bedouins' pockets, but - as one might expect - not without upsetting their social order.

The oilmen, of course, are as ignorant of the Bedouins' culture as the Bedouins are of theirs. The story begins in the s, which happens to be the same decade in which American geologists from Standard Oil of California discovered oil in Saudi Arabia. Munif does not directly reveal that, but it seems clear enough that his novel - which is the first of a trilogy - is the story of that discovery and the subsequent formation of ARAMCO, the oil giant.

The story is told through the eyes of the Bedouins. The oilmen and the Saudi royal family are seen, for the most part, as the Bedouins' adversaries. Munif maintains a continuous flow of events that render the cultural changes understandable.

His main characters are three-dimensional, and by the novel's end Munif has acquainted the reader with his main characters and with life in this rural Saudi culture.

About halfway through this novel, I decided I like it enough to order the second book of the trilogy. But I subsequently changed my mind because I became frustrated with having to learn so many characters.

Within pages Munif introduces about characters, often without a hint as to whether a particular character will become a main figure or will only receive one mention.

As a result, I found myself having to underline names, making lists, and frequently backing up to figure out exactly who a particular character was. Perhaps my diligence was overkill, but I am not sure I would have understood the novel adequately without doing that. Had it not been for the "over-charactered" aspect, I would have rated this novel a 5-star.

It does, however, rate at least a 4 because, in an entertaining and enlightening way, it presents a perfectly believable picture of what happens to a community with roots in antiquity when it is dragged into a modern century. It is an excellent book which I am rereading but the heavy hard cover is really painful. It's a long novel based on facts about a village which is affected by the oil companies.

It's translator was excellent. Cities of salt is a historical fiction book set in an unnamed Arab country during the first half of the 20th century. It describes the changes in the place, a semi-arid desert, and its local Muslim inhabitants over this time period. Specifically, it shows how the local Arab communities are changed for the worse by the intrusion of Western individuals, Western corporations, and Western society as embodied by the oil corporations.

This society begins as an egalitarian community based on family ties and extended kinships. Everybody knows and trusts each other. Gates, land titles and other ways in which individuals divide up resources do not exist, and all is shared in common.

Likewise guns and violence are almost non-existent as conflicts are solved slowly and surely by long and lengthy discussions. Then Western geologists enter the scene and discover oil. Western oil corporations are quick to follow.

To get access to the oilwells, and to ship them out via pipelines requires control of land, which of course is communally owned and used. To solve this dilemma, the corporations try to cajole and bribe the locals to give up rights to these lands.

This often did not work, so the corporations resort to a tactic that was used against Native Americans and Africans in the previous four centuries. Specifically, the local tribes had nominal leaders.

The corporate representatives would bribe these leaders with modern marvels such as the telephone, repeating guns, television, ice, etc Slowly these local leaders would switch loyalties from their own tribes to the Westerners.

Eventually, these local leaders, and their henchman, would sell out their fellow Arabs, order locals of the land needed by the oil corporations, and back up their orders with their newly acquired guns. Overall, the egalitarian, communal society that existed was transformed into a dictatorship propped up by Western oil interests. A ruling class was created that was distinct from and unrepresentative of the people at large.

Oil, and the control of its acquisition, transportation, and distribution, replaced people and communal consensus as the source of power. And this is how many of the modern Arab nations came into being. All in all this is a great book, probably the best fiction book to read to understand the thinking of Al Qaeda and roots of Arab anger at America. The cloest way to describe it is the Arab world's version of America's Grapes of Wrath; the destruction of a communal and family-based way of life by modern corporations.

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Cities of Salt Trilogy : Trench

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Cities of Salt

Cities of Salt is a novel by Abdul Rahman Munif. It was first published in Lebanon in and was immediately recognized as a major work of Arab literature. The novel, and the quintet of which it is the first volume, describes the far-reaching effects of the discovery of huge reserves of oil under a once-idyllic oasis somewhere on the Arabian peninsula. When the waters come in, the first waves will dissolve the salt and reduce these great glass cities to dust. In antiquity, as you know, many cities simply disappeared. It is possible to foresee the downfall of cities that are inhuman.


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One day about 50 years ago, three Americans appeared unexpectedly in a desert oasis of a Persian Gulf kingdom where life had been unchanged for generations. His words were prophetic, for although the people in this unnamed Gulf country had resisted the occupation of the Turks 50 years earlier, they were about to meet a far more powerful force, one that would change the course of Middle East history. The era of oil exploration and production had begun and forever more tradition and progress would be in constant conflict. The book--banned in Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries--was originally published in Beirut in and was acclaimed as a major work of contemporary Arabic literature.

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