Here are reviews and excerpts of some books that I felt were worth reading.  You might like to contact me and provide some reviews of books you have read.  Sorry if cutting and pasting has created some weird symbols - may never get round to correcting all of them.


FATIMA MERNISSI.  Dreams of Trespass - tales of a harem girlhood.

Doubleday '94 (Transworld Publishers Ltd) London

Copyright Fatima Mernissi 1994 


This book is fascinating - very easy and enjoyable to read - about Fatima's upbringing in a Moroccan harem in the city written from a child's point of view - writing in much detail about daily life and customs from the child's questioning point of view.  Fatima has written a number of books which are well worthwhile - she has also written one on women's rights under Islam and what has actually been written in the Koran.  There is film footage of her in the documentary series "Sex and social dance" in the episode featuring Morocco.  She said she loves dance and it helps to keep her sane. And so say I.


Ch 2, pp7. women were not allowed to listen to the radio - so they made a secret key to have access to it.  pp.12,13.  Women need to communicate well to have power e.g.Sheherezade was a famous heroine in the Arabic world.


Ch 17, pp 167 talks about an African slave called Mira and trance ceremonies.  I'm not sure where in the book this is, but Fatima asks Mira why, when she does trance dance, she gently rocks from side to side, while some women fling themselves about - Mira says because they are angry, whereas she is not - she's at peace.  This may stem from the time when Mira was kidnapped as a small girl by slave-traders and she decided to face down her captors - she conquered her fears.


Chap 6 pp 51, comparing country (farm) and city harems.  There were many more restrictions in city harems, whereas there was no one around to bother the women in the country harem where Fatima used to go for holidays…. So much more freedom.


Pp 208 the vast difference between a modern school and a Koranic school that girls used to go to - Fatima went to both.  Questioning, new ideas and innovation were encouraged at the modern schools but not at Koranic schools.  Rote learning was practiced there and they only studied Koranic texts.


Chapter 21.  "Skin is political" pp 238 beauty and magic secrets.  Women hold power by not sharing recipes for beauty creams etc and magic.

Ghassoul pp248 is a shampoo made from clay mixed with water infused with fragrant flowers and dried.



Fatima has also written an interesting book on what is actually written about women in the Koran and also the circumstances in the prophet Mohammad's and his family's  life at the time he made some of the pronouncements regarding women….some were purely practical in purpose instituted as a result of changing times and the clash of different cultures they were experiencing in their travels - these customs have come to be considered a sacred duty…esp veiling and segregation of men and women.


Fatima was also featured in the wonderful TV series "Sex and social dance" - when they showed Moroccans dancing in a nightclub - she said she loves dancing and it has helped to keep her sane - She has a lovely warm personality. 


Another book by Fatima Mernissi;  The Harem Within


The Healing Land. A Kalahari Journey

by Rupert Isaacson , copyright Rupert Isaacson

2001 publisher; Fourth Estate, London


From 1985, Rupert travelled on various trips into Southern Africa , mostly in Botswana searching out bushmen and trance healing. He grew up in England - his mother and father were from South Africa.


Circling.circling… I have entered the airy, dancing lightness of love. Rumi


P58 From one of the further shacks came the sound of quiet singing.  An elderly woman, wearing only a skin kilt, was weaving her thin, ancient body to and fro in a dance.  She swayed past me, dry aged breasts flapping against her bony chest, and stepped into the sheltered entrance of the Red House, whose roof was supported on wooden poles, like the extended front of a marquee. 'Cait,' she said quietly, 'my mother.' Cait looked up from the fire where she had been talking with Dawid and Chris: 'Antas!' she said, smiling, and got up. 'My mother,' repeated the old lady, though she must have been at least thirty years Cait's senior. She took Cait's hand and, still dancing and quietly singing, led her outside, to sit down on the sand. She then pushed the thin white woman gently back, until she lay stretched out, and began to move her hands in a circular motion in the air an inch above Cait's lower belly. For perhaps ten minutes, Antas moves her hands above Cait's stomach, singing all the while, then abruptly she stood up, ceased her song, and motioned for Cait to rise. When she was back on her feet, Antas hugged her around her middle, repeating the words 'My mother, my mother' and swayed of in the direction which she had come. Cait looked over at me: 'Time to go, I think.".. [later Cait said]. I went to the doctor to see about some pains in my stomach. It turns out I've got a cancer. Nothing serious yet, but cancer all the same. [Cait had told nobody about it].


P95 .two young men. grabbed a passing toddler and performed a quick ritual, dancing around him and taking turns to kneel and make sucking, blowing motions at his belly. And the infant pottered of undisturbed. 'That was a healing dance for a child who is depressed because its parents are arguing,' 


P122  According to Andrea, these BaKoko [bushmen] were not merely known as shape-shiftters and mischief-makers. Their 'doctors' were said to be the most powerful of all, able to sniff out evil-doers and make them atone for their actions , as well as to heal the sick. ..

The moon rose, and the Nharo men, women and children began to come into camp, gathering around the fire.  After perhaps an hour - it was hard to tell, for no one was keeping track of time - a few of the women began, gently, to sing and clap, only to fall silent again and resume their chatter, as if limbering up for the coming work. Little by little, these sort snatches of song and rhythm became longer .. .at some point the conversation fell away and there was only song, swelling, loud, fast yet steady, tied to a rhythm of many palms coming together in complicated sequence. The men had somehow mananged to extricate themselves from the inner circle, and now sat in their own group on the far side of the fire, leaving only women in the chorus. [two men entered]. The two men danced and danced, their bass voices and the hissing leg-rattles adding depth and resonance to the women's song. Which slowly grew in volume and intensity until the old man staggered, lurched, then stopped, tilting back his head and screaming as if in pain, the veins standing out clear on his neck and forehead. At once the younger man caught and steadied him from behind and then reached into the fire, drew out a handful of burning embers and rubbed them onto the older man's bare back..

Neither man was burnt. Instead, the older one seemed to return to himself and, shaking his head in little, twitching shakes, continued to dance around the fire.

Andrea whispered: 'It's the helper's job to make sure he doesn't go into trance too quickly, that he enters it at the height of his power. So he brings him out of the trance the first few times by using the coals.' Then, at last, the healer gave a loud scream, a shriek in fact, as if someone had run him through. He leapt out from the fire, over the heads of the singing women. …Still screaming, but now sobbing too, he rushed forward on his knees, reached out and grabbed the old woman's legs, running his hands down them, pulling at them, still sobbing while the chorus and the old woman, impassive as a statue, looked on resolutely over the healer's head, into the darkness, letting him handle her as he would.

.Andrea explained - He draws the bad energy out, into himself and then spits it out for the wind to take away. That's why he screams - it's the pain of taking their pain into himself, and then releasing it. This is a very hard healing.". You see, it's unusual for him to go back to one person so often; it's usually done much more quickly than that. He must be finding it difficult." 'And the men sitting outside the circle, will they be healed too?' ' No, you only get the individual healing if you sit in the circle. It's sad, but the men here aren't too comfortable with it any more..[when all the other men had gone] the healer… merely danced slowly around the fire, singing softly to himself.  It seemed that his trance had broken, for his eyes were focused now and he smiled at me as he passed. It was then that I did what I had been longing to do all night. I got up from my seat at the camp table, went over to the circle and sat down. The women, smiling, make space for me. I picked up the rhythm and sat, clapping with them, basking in the deep, almost slumberous peace that the dance now seemed to have created.


P 194 Besa said that.if he wanted to heal, he said, he would fly abroad as a bird. He would find the spirit of the sick one, lying down, resting in the sunlit bush. He would hop onto their back, lightly so as not to disturb them, and perch there, singing, until he had sung the sickness out of them. The person would feel the light bird's presence on their back and smile. And when he felt that smile, Besa could go back to his own body and rest. Sometimes he would 'climb the rope' to another place, to a shadow land where the spirits of those who had caused sickness wandered, blundering about in the darkness of their own creation. When he found them he would confront them, demand the truth, and admission of wrongdoing from their spirit to his, and in their utterance of that wrong, their bad work would be undone.

And sometimes, if he needed to, he could send his spirit out on mischief.  Not to kill, which was forbidden, though there were times when he had wanted to. He became a lion or a leopard: a lion to hunt, maybe to run off someone's cattle. Leopard was better, quicker, smarter. When he went abroad like this no lights would fly from his body: he would simply go, making sure nobody but those closest to him knew that he had gone. When he came back he would be tired beyond measure.


P 195  Looking back into the circle I saw that Besa was standing upright in the firelight, a little bronze god, his mouth open. He was singing in his strange, reedy voice and then suddenly he had sung himself straight into trance on one pure, high note that shot upwards into the warm night-wind, fell back a moment into his chest, then exploded back outwards, straight from his taught-veined neck to the stars. No one else was singing, or clapping. No chorus, no dancers, just Besa, alone, singing to the stars. The note rang out again, and then, first with one foot and then the other, he launched himself, slowly, like a swimmer gingerly entering cold water, into the dance.


He held his note, let it fall, then whipped it into a series of high yelps like a coyote or a jackal and danced over to Xwa, putting his small strong hands on her head. She accepted it without expression, as I had seen her do before, while his song changed to a mutter, a babble, a deep, guttural growl, and finally, unexpectedly, a short, ear-splitting shriek that snapped him upright. He grunted through his nose like a gemsbok, then resumed the flute-like song. And danced over to me.

His palms curled around my head. His voice rose again to a choirboy's pitch, echoing of the cathedral vault of stars and back again to become a bubbling, happy sound deep in his belly. Besa was holding

my head and laughing. Then whooping for joy. I opened my eyes, sneaking a look. Tears were running down his face, as if he'd been told a joke that just doubled him up. Up went the voice again, his hands, very tender, clasping the top of my skull. He squatted down, pressed his head to my chest, to my back. He was shaking so that as she touched me, I shook to. But there was another feeling behind it, something like a gentle electric current, or a pulse. Besa reeled of, circled the fire, then came back and laid his hands on me again, laughing so joyfully that an image came to mind of a parent rejoicing for some god thing a child had done, or some bad thing the child has escaped. He removed his hands, executed a few steps of a happy jig, then put his hands back on a third time. He started to shout. Words in to the night, words I did not understand. When at last he danced away, back to old mother Xwa, Bulands leant across and whispered: 'Leopards. He was saying "leopards" - I don't know why, but he keeps saying it when he touches you.' 

Perhaps a minute later - startling us all - a leopard coughed just outside the circle of the firelight: a noise somewhere between a rough growl and a dog's bark. As one, the village dogs rose up, barking maniacally, and dashed off in the direction of the noise. The 'cough' came again, this time echoed by another from the opposite side of the fire: two leopards. The dogs came rushing back, afraid, all their hackles up. Laughing, Besa danced over to me and put his hands on once again, pulsing his slow, calm current through my skull, into my brain, down my spine, and out in tingling throbs to the fingers, legs and toes; a subtle, heart-felt pleasure, almost to good, too delicate to bear. Half of me wanted to break from this grip, the other half, to open the top of my skull like a lid and let him pour in anything he wanted, even himself, a little man tipped up, two legs kicking from the hole in my skull.

For perhaps two hours he dance on tirelessly like this, laughing, laying his hands and his head upon me while, out in the midnight bush, the leopards coughed and the dogs growled and howled from rage and fear.  At some point, the people around the fire took up a clapping chant. "All the while that warm, pleasant current buzzed gently through me, felt dimly at the farthest edge of sensation. Then without warning, Besa staggered and fell face first to the ground, unconscious. The dance was over.

His lanky wife went to revive him., helping him to the fire, and handed him a bone pipe stuffed with rough tobacco. Besa looked as though he were about to die, all vitality drained out of him. I, on the other  hand, felt brim full of peace, contentment, quiet euphoria. I went over to where he lay in a foetal ball, drained, empty, old and wrinkled - looking, yet with his eyes open. I touched his back, rubbing his shoulders, wondering if they were sore. He flinched as if I had stabbed him, looked at me as if wounded, and hid his head in his arms. I let him be, went back to my place, lay back in the sand and looked up at the stars,. I could not remember the last time I felt this good - no tiredness, no anxiety, no aggravating tension in my shoulders, no little nagging voice telling me I was no good. 

P 253 . Everyone ate. When the pot was empty, the women took up their clapping, their chant, and it began.  Besa got to his feet, stamping his rhythm, sucking the air in and out of his throat like an ostrich before letting go a series of the high, yodelling notes that would soon carry him into a trance and beyond. He danced in short, shuffling steps, laughing and talking to himself as he did so. Looking at his old face as he passed me, I realised that he had already entered his trance, but had gone in gently, softly, without fuss or drama. He was talking to unseen spirits, conversationally, not confrontationally, and was - it seemed - pleased with what they were telling him. His tone, as he shuffled his circle, was private, confiding, and he laughed often, as if at some joke, occasionally breaking back into those high, pure note that seemed to be the strings on which he played himself when the trance was upon him. Briskly, with an almost business-like air, he began to lay hands on those gathered around the fire, his hands trembling with intensity. Finally, sometime near dawn, he collapsed for the last time and his wife left him lying where he had dropped.

P 256 Rupert's mother visited him there and wrote in her diary -

What have I learned?  …I have all I need. To be still and quiet and let things happen. That sand is lovely to sleep in. Sand keeps you clean. Daga  (Marijuana) is god for you Bushman-style, shared mindfully. In the desert you don't smell, hardly need to drink or eat or eliminate. The body lightens. You need very little. That what matters is God within. The pure heart. Loving kindness. Forgiveness. Restitution. Reciprocity.


Also about "bushmen"; "Nisa" by Marjorie Shostak; The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman.  Copyright 1981 Marjorie Shostak.  Pub;Vintage Books (Random House)New York.  Told in the old woman's words to an anthropologist - about her life in the Kalahari - describes trance healing she used to do and  details of family and sex-life.  Not a patriarchal society.


"Mother without a mask" by Patricia Holton

Copyright 1991 Patricia Holton, pub; Kyle Cathie Limited, London.  Paperback 1993


I find this story interesting because it tells the story from a sympathisers' point of view and shows the author's understanding of what this United Arab Emirates (UAE) family believe and how their family and society functions. There are currently many horror-story books around of Westerners' experiences in the Middle East, but very few from sympathetic people.   In most travellers' tales, we see an outsider, usually male, who does not see the women's way of life.  Even females from other cultures are rarely initiated into the everyday life of Middle Eastern women, and can't give very full accounts.  This book also shows a time capsule of life in the 70s, a life that has probably changed significantly now and it also gives an idea of what life was like in the Middle East before oil became the basis of the Gulf States' economy.  I found "Mother without a Mask" to be particularly interesting, enjoyable, and easy to read.


Mother without a Mask is set in Al Ain in the inland Buraimi Oasis in the UAE, next to the border with Oman.  The title of the book refers to the author, Patricia who did not wear the mask most women wore when she was in the UAE.  She hosted two Arab boys (sons of a Sheik) while they were going to school in England and made many trips to visit their family at home, where she was a guest of the Sheik and Sheika (his wife) and lived with their extended family.  After this family got oil money, they lived through major changes in their lifestyles.  They were already wealthy at the beginning of their association with her.  The writers' husband was an advisor (on who to contact to sort out a problem) to the Sheik.  Patricia was an American, married to an Englishman, with children, living in London in mid 70s.  The Arabs called her Um Yusef (mother of Joseph).


Since this book isn't easily obtainable, I've done a summary of some of the information that I found most interesting, rearranging it under various subject headings.   The author's language is preserved as much as possible, in quotes, (usually in the first person), as it is so evocative.  I've put some of my own comments in squared brackets.  I hope that it's not too choppy for you, but it makes it a lot easier for me to present it that way.  There's a lot of interesting information there.





WOMEN   "Our women are our flowers" - quote from the sheik's teenage son.  "Then why do you shut them up?" I asked.  "Shut them up?" he exclaimed in alarm,  "We don't shut them up."  "But they are behind a mask, under veils, inside walls" I said.   "It is their custom, their way.  It is different.  I cannot explain.  You must talk to my mother."  [Unfortunately, we never did find out his mother's point of view. M.B.]


Al hareem.  Hareem is Arabic for women - plural. Hormah is woman.  Hareem is the women of the house.  Hormah comes from Arabic haram - forbidden, holy, sacrosanct, sanctuary.  Today haram is used almost entirely in its meaning of forbidden. 


Divorce was rare because the husband could demand to keep children. 


The Sheikha (the sheik's wife) - "She walked with a measured light step. "Not thin, but lithe and strong with a straight back". "Her hands were exceptionally beautiful with long, strong supple fingers.  She used them continuously in speech, sometimes holding up the thumb and the third finger in a circle together to accent a point, the palm open and raised.  Her finger-nails were painted with henna, as were the soles of her feet where the henna had gone a dark purple."  Her hair - "She wore it like a child in one long, heavy plait down her back" - but sometimes she twisted it into a complicated bun, securing it with a few heavy pins and combs.  She was the daughter of a Sheik.  She expected to be obeyed [referring to her way of speaking to servants]. 


Once girls reached puberty, they were not allowed to show their faces.  Married women wear masks even during meals.  Sometimes restrictions were relaxed in a desert camp when entertaining female guests.  "Behind those masks and veils they could see without being seen.  Undisturbed, they became classic observers." 


It was common to foster children, but rarely were they adopted.  To be truly adopted, "Adoptive children should nurse at the breast of one of the immediate family in order to have the freedom of the family when they are adult.  They are then accepted as true brothers or sisters.  Marriage between a blood son and an adopted daughter who had nursed at the same breast would be incestuous - haram - forbidden."


After a holiday camping at the seaside, the family packed quickly and moved home to Al Ain.  The women would not get out of cars at rest stops because they would not eat or drink in front of strangers and never used public toilets.  "In the old days they would never go to toilet in the daytime.  They all waited till dark and then went down to the sea. ….  We didn't have so much to drink then, either." 



The women of the family wore masks indoors and out and knee-length black veils outdoors over brightly coloured silk dresses.  Small girls wore bright long dresses.  Small boys wore kandoras (caftans) like the men.  Underwear for men - a sarong (also worn for pyjamas) that is worn under the white Kandora (caftan).  Female servants did not wear masks or veils. These women were usually of other cultures e.g. from the Muslim populations of Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Filipines, generally.  They could attain status in the house-hold.  One became a major domo. Working men wore kandoras with bare heads or crocheted hats or loin cloths with  checked headcloths wound into turbans.   The Sheika greeted her husband formally yet affectionately.  She wore a sky-blue silk with gold embroidery and a "stiff, black burnished gold canvas mask." (also described as "little mask" - or as women wearing "the same harlequin masks") "quietly unperturbed by the busy scene around her" [setting up camp].  The Sheikha ran the household.  She was married at the age of about 13 - possibly younger. 



The Sheiks' Al Ain compound walls were studded with round globe lights - round about 20 acres,  It had date palms, mango trees and lemons.  Women had a separate gate to the men.  They had a small farm of 10 to 12 acres with cows and sheep and goats.  The houses were arranged round a central square with a garden.


Coffee is a symbol of hospitality and is made and drunk with care and respect, made with cardamom and freshly roasted coffee beans.  There was a hierarchy - apart from hostess, the eldest is served first - younger brothers and sisters run errands for older ones etc.  The hareem eldest was the Sheikhs mother.  "I recognised her by her bearing. They all had straight strong backs but Sheikha Grandmother's back seemed to extend into her swan-like neck.  She had the back and bearing of a queen.  Sitting tahat i.e. on the carpet was no excuse to lounge.  "You are supposed to sit up with a straight back.  In fact the back should be straight at all times."  The women spoke in soft voices.  It was morning visiting time - each visiting time has its own name, traditions and customs.  Children greeted their older female relatives with a kiss in the centre of the forehead, for the older male relatives, a nose-kiss.  This nose kiss is used in some parts of UAE and Oman.  Showing the soles of feet was as rude as spitting.  The women always rose to greet each other. 


Part of the hospitality ritual for guests was having the incense pots passed around.  A few chunks of charcoal were taken from the coffee brazier and put in the top of the incense burner (made of coarse brick-coloured clay).  Sandalwood slivers from a jar which held perfumed oil of the Sheikha's own recipe were placed on top.   Everyone had their own mixes of oil and perfumes, carefully handed down and sometimes shared. Incense is always passed to the right. They perfumed their hair with incense under the veil and then under their skirts and waited for the smoke to seep through.  In the old days, before "oil", all the fruit they could serve guests were their own dates unless the mangos were in season.  For many years, they existed on a little dried fish, rice and dates.  Camel's milk and hard yoghurt cheese varied the diet.  The Sheika often had only one dress to wear.  Grandmother Sheika used to ride camels from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain in the hot weather - it was hotter in Al Ain, but more dry.  After fruit, "coffee was served again, incense passed once more and then came the piece de resistance, the final courtesy.  At a command, a treasure box of perfumes was brought in, a velvet box studded with jewel-like stones.  Nestling inside in silken slots were gold-trimmed bottles containing a collection of rich and rare perfumes.  Attar of roses, attar of jasmine, essence of sandalwood, attar of henna, attar of musk - strange, heady scents so strong that they are used only as a base for modern Western perfume.  Long, gold dipsticks were placed in the bottles, which were then passed around.  A little perfume was placed on the side of the thumbs, or on the sides of the face or on the veils or just beneath the nostrils 'to make the breath sweet'."  "Perfume was an imperative and it was just as important for a man to smell sweet as a woman.   The Arab male sprays himself liberally with cologne."  When the weather cooled they went back to Abu Dhabi where the boats go out for fish and pearls.  The pearls have various names for the different colours and sizes.  The trip used to take 5 or 6 days by camel, sometimes travelling at night to escape the heat.


"The soles of their (the womens') feet were near black with henna.  Their nails were painted with henna and the palms of their hands striped with it."  Their eyes were rimmed with black kohl.


Mirrors were not displayed in houses as if it was not seemly to look at oneself.  The dressing mirror provided for Patricia had doors that closed over it.  Women, though, had their own little mirrors in their personal boxes.  The women never used lipstick - it was slightly scandalous. 


"In the old days Arab lady visitors slept on palliasses (bedrolls) in the dining majlis floor (the room for entertaining male guests)."  The date palms made this oasis a prized land - 4 to 5 miles long, initially.  This was then expanded.. Underground  rivers and lakes from the Oman mountains brought water down to the oasis. Open channels called falaj irrigated the oasis.  There were many Nubi slaves in Arabia - the slave trade was still happening in the 70s and was also said to be happening in Afghanistan.  Only when oil money allowed them to hire foreign workers did this practice stop.  Once they became part of an Arab household, slaves were both servants and companions - eating from the same plate, wearing the same clothes - psychologically bound - the slave's families were looked after by their owners' families.


Dogs were considered unclean - if a woman sat on a chair that a dog had sat on, she would have to change her clothes before she could pray.  When the women visited London, they refused to sit on the hotel beds because they thought a dog might have sat on them.  It took a lot of convincing to just let the bedding be changed rather than go out and buy new sets.  This was a top quality hotel - the staff took it calmly and didn't make a fuss.  They were used to Arabs having unusual requirements by now.  The Arab women visiting London loved to shop, as they could not do that in the UAE.  They knew how to shop - they took their time, examined things carefully. They used to buy pure silk or wool - they rejected mixtures and refused to go back to shops whose staff did not know the difference.


DIGNITY STOICISM   Patricia, talking of the Sheik's two sons and the desert Arabs in general, said, "Something in their spirit kept them apart.  Patience, physical endurance and a spiritual stillness gave them the ability to survive in the most desperate conditions in the most desperate climates" The younger boy was 13.  She mentioned his composure despite his lack of experience. He walked tall - he was the son of a sheik.  Both the boys had courtly grace and politeness.   They drove cars in the desert and rode on horses with or without saddles. 


Patricia was talking to their father, the Sheik -"I looked directly into his eyes.  This much I had learned.  They do not trust people who shift about with their head, eyes, bodies or attitudes of mind."  The father did not express with his eyes.  Women don't show tears - that's shameful.  When they say goodbye, they don't look back, no waving. 


Greetings are lengthy  - asking about individual family members etc. etc.   Pat mentions people never saying anything is wrong on first greeting - having to worm out bad news.  The answer to the question, "How is everybody", is always "All is well".


The first prayers of the day in the hareem were at dawn.  Prayers were said a minimum of 5 times a day.  They also prayed for people in danger or the sick as when the younger son was ill - "I knew it must be something more than flu.  They usually ignored colds and flu, dragging themselves round with fevers and allied aches."  He was rushed to hospital with a perforated ulcer - a boy of 16 years.  The boy was angry at being sick.  The hospital was made up of large bungalows with many bedrooms built round the central principal building.  It seems this design allowed all the relatives to move in to keep the sick person company, as was the custom there.  "Within hours, the paraphernalia of their lives began to appear - coffee thermoses, incense pots, boxes of fruit, trays to serve it on, suitcases, prayer mats."  "At night, the Sheikha slept in that great plot of a bed with her son in her arms, trying to keep him quiet, allaying his fears and anger."  The sick boy ended up being flown by the rulers' private plane to London to get some peace.  The plane was divided into 3 sections.  The males occupied the front, the females the mid-section and the last section was the majlis (the place for entertaining male visitors in a normal house) - with couches where the sick boy lay with a drip and his male nurse.  "The only sign he, (the Sheikh) showed that anything was amiss in his family was the number of times he got out his thumbnail-sized pipe for the comfort of the single puff it gave him.  He, too, was addicted to the powerful Oman tobacco.  His eyes revealed nothing.  His straight back and determined walk were commanding."  Once they got to the London hospital, the family were separated from their son, which was quite distressing for them.  The Sheikh left his own men to watch over his son in intensive care while  he and his wife went to sleep in a hotel.  "Throughout the long days of his recovery, the Youngest Son  was never left alone, the family group and Patricia taking turns.  Someone always slept in a chair by him at night. This hospital was specially "built to cater for the ever-growing Arab clientele, so nothing was said.  All was understood."


When the Arab family was in London, they said to Pat, "It is you who likes the desert.  Not us.  It is a hard place. There is nothing there……  no people were so blessed by God as you.  You have water,  ….rain… kind weather…. Green everywhere."  "Do you not know that this is like Paradise?"   


OLD BELIEFS   Not all the women wanted to say they believed in spirits etc, but "Halema said Djinn are real….They are written in the Qur'an. Halema began to describe the life of the desert djinn who people the underworld.  They have a complete society, I was told.  A family life, homes.  They marry, have children and die.   Some go to Paradise, some to Hell.  There are black djinn and white djinn.  They have been known both to help and to hurt the desert people.  They can guide you or confuse you.  When they rise at dawn and in the twilight people should not be abroad, but at their prayers indoors.  Four elements protect you from them.  Fire, steel, salt and the Qur'an, but the Qur'an, of course, is considered the most important."  "And they hate electricity," Hussa added.  I suspected this was the reason the compounds and camps always had rings of protective lights.  Djinn are of another dimension but can take possession of all living things.  Sometimes they are in trees, sometimes in animals and sometimes they take control of a human.  When this happens the human is capable of extraordinary acts.  They will do things that ordinarily would injure them, and yet they are not injured; super-human acts, from lifting enormous weights to self-wounding. 


At twilight it is most important to be kind to animals, to refrain from throwing anything on the ground, from riding either horse or camel over the desert, for you might injure a rising djinn and they are vengeful spirits."  Aisha was deaf because; "She had been cooking rice for supper.  Not realising that the afternoon hours had passed, she had gone out and thrown the boiling rice water on the ground.  It was just twilight.  The following morning she was truck with a heavy fever and by the end of the day she was stone deaf.  There was no damage to her eardrums, no apparent cause other than the fever.  "She threw the rice water on the djinn," said Halema.  "It was a strong curse.  The djinn will always pay you back.  They will always take revenge.  You must always be careful."


Then Shama told the story of Boudariah.  "He comes out of the darkness.  He is not a djinn.  His spirit is black.  He is the slave of darkness, of the evil one, of the Devil himself.  The Devil is not a djinn, Um Yusef, but is as with you.  The whole of the bad.  The one who takes you and makes you do the wicked thing.  Boudariah is his slave."  As she spoke, the wind rose again and the brazier burned hot.  We warmed our hands as though a sudden chill had come upon us at the mention of his name.  "Off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah and off the coast of Muscat, too, the Slave of the Devil has been known to catch a boat by the middle, break it - break its back and pull it down and down until all is gone.  Nothing seen and no-one found.  Never and never.  This is true, for we know some travellers were on such a ship.  A great ship.  They were going from Ras Al Khaimah to India.  There was no wind.  No storm.  It was calm.  Boudariah caught the boat and sank it.  This time, thanks be to God, some were saved to tell the news."


"I tell you, if anyone went near the beach in those days before everything became new - if anyone went near the beach at night, the Slave would come from the deep sea and make a light.  The light would pull you.  You go toward the light, always toward the light.  Then Boudariah takes you, kills you and throws your body on the beach."


Halema said "Here is a strange story for you, Um Yusef.  A story of Boudariah which is not so very old.  I will tell you, but I think you will not believe." …. "I will tell you now that the Slave can take the shape of a human.  Some djinn are like this.  It makes difficulties.  But when the Slave takes a human form it is always a bad thing"…" There was a man.  He lived in Abu Dhabi.  A good man.  A straight man and a good fisherman.  Fish come up from the deep sea in the early morning and the early evening.  You know this?….This man - Ali - had a cousin named Ahmed.  They like to walk together and to fish together.  Ali and Ahmed made a time to meet on the beach to fish.  But they were careless.  Careless of the sunset.  They like fishing more than their prayers perhaps….. That evening Ali made careful arrangements with Ahmed.  He said he does not want to be late returning home…..The meeting should be at a place far down the beach.  Far from houses.  Fish come in quiet places….Ali came, but he sees Ahmed there before him.  Then he sees Ahmed start to walk away from him.  Not come to him……Strange…  Ali called, but Ahmed only walks faster.."  Ahmed starts running.  "Ahmed turns and smiles and runs faster.  Now both run on the beach….Ahmed runs straight into the sea.  Far, far he goes until he goes under the sea.  Ali follows….He calls and calls…. but nothing.  Ali cannot swim."  So he goes back to the beach, falls down on the sand…crying..  Then he hears a voice.  It is his cousin Ahmed saying "What are you doing here?  You told me to meet you further back." The real Ahmed was late as he had slept through the sunset prayer.  Now the sun had gone leaving only this dangerous light.  Ali had only been saved by someone's prayers.


OLD LIFE-STYLE  On her first trip to UAE, Patricia  was taken to stay with the family at their holiday camp on the beach for two weeks.  They had prepared her tent, held up with bamboo tent poles.  It was large, about twenty feet by fifteen.  The floor was completely covered with Persian rugs and there were several solid, heavy cushions against the sides, covered with white cotton cases with embroidered centres.  She slept on a bedroll with two servant companions to keep her company. 


The Sheik built a new compound in Al Ain with six old-style palm-frond houses - cool and comfortable - like the ones from the old days.  The Sheika "opened a pair of narrow, carved wood double doors and I went inside.  It was cool and dark, a beautifully built long-house with decoratively carved wooden uprights, carved cross beams and a dormer roof.  The walls were made of stripped palm fronds, closely woven and tied with hemp to the wooden uprights.  The roof was split palm lath, tied and pinned as thatch, then covered with a finely woven matting which made it quite weather-proof.  The walls were lined with another fine matting woven in a large diamond design of red and green.  The floor was the beaten and smoothed sand of the desert covered in layers of mats and overlaid with fine carpets.  Cushions, the large hard Arabian cushions, stood neatly along the back wall.  At one end of the house, a separate small room was sectioned off.  It had traditionally been used for stores and undressing."   " I searched vainly for nails.  There must have been some, but I couldn't find any.  Every wooden join was tongue and groove reinforced with knotted rope.  It was a house made as they once made their ships…"  Their old big ocean-going booms were becoming very rare.  These palm frond houses were called areesh.


MUSIC   The younger son "had a passionate love of music and in another world at another time might have made a fine musician."  "Now he held the wheel (of the car) in his long-fingered brown hands, tossed a tambourine in my lap and marked a beat: 'Wahida, wahida, wahida' - "One, one, one.'  From the narrow seat behind there was a sudden thunder of sound as the two Omanis began playing drums.  One was of beaten metal, a sort of aluminium alloy with a modern fitted skin.  The other was brown-painted pottery, its skin held down by strings.  It gave a sharp, light tone to the modern drum's bass."  "We sang and drummed our way to Al Ain."  "When the Sheikha heard that her son had kept me beating the tambourine all the way to Al Ain she was horrified and no amount of pleading on my part helped.  Such antics were taboo to the women, especially the Sheikhas.  Playing any instrument was taboo, but playing it along a public highway - shocking." [As far as I can remember, no mention was made of dance in the book.  Patricia was not invited to any major celebrations such as weddings.  M.B.]


Pomegranate Soup,  by Marsha Mehran pub by Fourth Estate, (Harper Collins, Australia) 2005

Copyright  Marsha Mehran 2005


Lovely book - very evocative and provocative - contrast of stoic Irish life and Iranian ideas and sensuality when women from one Iranian family move to a coastal Irish town to start a restaurant. Got me in from the first paragraph.  And there is a recipe in every chapter.


Fesenjoon (Chicken stew)

500g walnuts, ground

Olive oil

1.25k skinless chicken breast, cubed

3 large onions, sliced

6 tbs pomegranate paste, dissolved in 2 cupshot water

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

1tbs sugar

2 tbs lemon juice.


Fry walnuts in olive oil, for 10 mins, stirring constantly, set aside.  Saute chicken  and onions  in a deep pan until golden.  Add walnuts, pomegranate juice, and remaining ingr.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 mins, or until pomegranate sauce thickens .  Serve with rice (chelow).


The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber, pub 2005.  An engaging and quite funny book that contrasts expat Middle-Easterners starting a new life in America - very evocative girls' childhood story and of course lots of talk about food and includes a very interesting visit by Diana to her father's homeland.


Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley pub Harper Perennial 2004, copyright Aidan Hartley 2003,


 "Zingari" by Paolo Gris - in Italian about Veneto Gypsies  (Mestre?)

Paolo worked with Gypsies trying to integrate and work with authorities and try to get gov to understand them - 2 way info sharing


The Veiled Lands   Christine Hogan - talks about women travel writers from the past writing about the orient - Christine visited Arabic and Ottoman parts of the Middle-East.  Interesting bit about the  entrancing hypnotic effect of the desert - many people are profoundly affected by having been there.



ON GYPSIES ....  (aka Rom, Romany people, gipsies, kale et al)


Books by Walter Starkie and George Borrow are easy to find and very informative.  Walter wrote in early to mid 1900s and George Borrow in the 1800s.


Sven Berlin "Dromengo.  Man of the Road"  Copyright Sven Berlin 1971.  About a man (who had some distant gypsy family, but was raised as non-gypsy) who married a gypsy woman and lived on the road with her in England.


"Golden Earrings" by Yolanda Foldes 1945.  Pub; Robert Hale Ltd, London.  Fiction - (more like faction)- very amusing and thrilling story of a gypsy woman sheltering an English colonel stranded in Germany during the second world war trying to get back home - she disguised him as a gypsy.


Below are book titles listed in the book "Romanichal Gypsies" - Threatened Cultures .  Acton and Gallant authors.  Copyright 1997 Wayland Publishers Ltd, England……………


Fred Wood; autobiography

Gordon Boswell; autobiography

Edward Ayres.  Poems and Ballads (Midas, 1973)

Julia Gentle ; Tina Lee's Wedding

Margaret Grattan;   Paid in Full

Ian Hancok;   The Pariah Syndrome

Gordon Boswell  ?dictionary



Dancing   The pleasure, power and art of movement, by Gerald Jonas

Copyright 1992 Educational Broadcasting Corporation and Gerald Jonas, pub in 1992 by Harry N. Abrams, Inc New York - a Times Mirror Company


A lovely book - lots of pictures with the history of dance and it's uses in many cultures as well as European cultures - and it traces the repression of social and ritual dance by the Church - goes into a lot of detail about dance-leaders in America in 1900s.


Through Persia In Disguise by Sarah Hobson  copyright Sarah Hobson 1973

The Travel Book Club, London

John Murray (publishers) Ltd


Sarah in this book was a young woman (late teens I think interested in textiles and craft - and was herself designing leather goods including belts with  friend.  She decided to take a trip into Iran dressed as a young man to find out more about arts and  crafts there.  It's interesting on many levels - firstly her efforts to appear as a man and take on that body language.  Her reception by the Iranians and other peoples, her time spent in a madrassah (Koranic place of learning) and the welcome she got there as a male Christian (lots of philosophical talks) - and the way people took care of here wherever she went - as a man or as a woman.  She met and stayed a short while with the semi-nomadic Qashqai - they were nomads when they could be but when pasture was not abundant they stayed in settlements with few ways to earn a living. They live hard lives - as most people seem to in Iran.


It's a great travel and sociological book- Sarah is a people person and quite brave. 


Other interesting things were the country policeman's training in the ancient Persian traditional strength training of the Zur Khane (House of Strenth) (though she did not know the name of this) - with huge wooden dumb-bells accompanied by percussion.  The stick-fighting - there is a good picture of this - they invited her to participate and let her win  Some nice black and white pictures - liked the one of Qashqai costume and weaving.


God knows what made her go there, but I'm glad she did.



Aman by Aman  as told to Virginia Lee Barnes and Janice Boddy

Copyright Aman  1994 and the Estate of Virginia Lee Barnes

Copyright by Janice Boddy in the Foreword and Afterword

Bloomsbury Publishing, London


Very readable story of a spirited and rebellious Somali girl growing into a woman giving a good picture of family structure/support networks, cultural traditions, lifestyles of city/country people in an Islamic culture. 

Set in time after second world war when many Italians were in priveliged positions there.  Detailed info on female circumcision, "de-virgining", childbirth, zar trance ceremony.

Riding Windhorses - a Journey into the Heart of Mongolian Shamanism by Sarangerel

Pub by Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont   copyright 2000 Julie Anne Stewart


Sarangerel is a woman who lives in America and has Siberian cultural heritage.  She stayed in Mongolia to study shamanism there and has written a very interesting book - full of practical and metaphysical stuff on what shamans do and She has herself become a shaman.


Here are some quotable quotes'

"At the heart of Mongolian shamanism are three essential ideas

1.  The maintenance of balance in the world

2.  Reverence for the earth and living things

3.  personal responsibility.


When you have fixed yourself,

Fix your community,

When you have fixed your community,

Fix the world.

When you have fixed the world.,

Adjust your sash.

If you are afraid,

Don't do it,

If you do it,

Do not fear the outcome.

 - Old Mongolian Proverb



Dreams are significant - reveal the future  pp 122


Pp 173  Prayer Tree  a person has a few different souls…

"The barisaa or prayer tree, is an important site of worship in Siberian-Mongolian shamanism.  The creation of such a tree by means of this ritual brings peace and reduces violence in whatever place it is performed.  This ritual needs to be done in as many places as possible especially in places where deaths from war or violence have occurred.  The ritual also calls on the nature spirits to bring inspiration, calm people's hearts, and create thoughts of peace and love…..The suld souls of those who have been killed or died very young are often hostile and cause disease, mental confusion despair and thoughts of violence….These spirits are ignorant of the fact that they can still make a constructive contribution to human society, even as spirits."   A young tree is chosen that is not going to be cut down in the near future and offerings are made to it including water and white ribbons are tied onto it.  If an old sacred tree needs to be cut down a new one is blessed in it/'s place.


Trances by Stewart Wavell, Audrey Butt and Nina Epton

Copyright George Allen & Unwin Ltd, and E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1966

Pub George Allen and Unwin, London


This books is very interesting and experiential - the authors have researched the use of trance through their travels - in this books, most of the experiences are from SE Asia including Malaysia and Bali, from Japan, South America and Morocco.  It's a great book, easy to read and sometimes amusing - see extract below.


Nina Epton has published many books (14 are listed) on the Middle-East, france and spain and S.E. Asia.


Dr. Audrey Butt, and anthropologist has lived with the Akawaio Indians of Guyana in South America.


Stewart Wavell (Editor and inspirer of this book) was born in Malaya and has written two other books that are listed in "Trances".


Quotable quotes

chapter 8, pp 78-79 , Stewart Wavell writes of the Temer aboriginal tribe in the Kelantan jungle of Malaysia.  The temer regard their dreams as messages from the spirits allowing them to predict the future so these dreams are common topics of conversation - the unconscious is openly discussed.


"Temer tribes in the Kelantan jungles have a simple approach to healthy living.  Sickness is caused by frustrated spirits:  therefore, they say, to avoid sickness, listen to the spirits and take their advice.  You can do this best by recalling your dreams.  Temers freely discuss their dreams together.  Sometimes they are puzzled by them, but nothing is concealed, between the members of the tribe,  'What happens," I asked one, 'if you dream that you are going to hit your cousin on the head?'

'I shall tell him,' the Temer replied.

'And if you dream it again the next night?'

'I shall tell him again,' he said.

'And if you dream it again a third night?'

'I shall hit him on the head,' he said simply.


This seemed very fair.  His cousin would have received two warnings and should by that time have made himself scarce.  No Temer who dreams can afford to ignore the injunctions of the spirits. 


It seemed to me that one great advantage conferred by the daily confession of dreams was a clean untroubled mind.  There was no guilt constipation.  The Temer motto might well be: 'A dream a day keeps the doctor away.'  Indeed, this cleansing aspect of confession whereby the mnd is emptied of guilt feelings is recognized and practiced by Catholics and Communists alike………… morening….a Temer boy came running  excitedly to me and shouted 'Big Fish! Come.'  I followed him along the bank of the river ….and then he stopped and pointed.  I could see nothing. 

'In my dream,' he said, 'the fish will be there.' ………….And then it came swiftly, gliding in the current.  In a flash the boy's arm had struck, impaling the fish neatly…."



The Temer also trance dance -" they'll find any excuse to dance.  Even the preparations give artistic pleasure."


Also the authors write that many tribes think it is normal to be suspicious of strangers and expect to be cursed by shamans from other areas as a matter of course - nothing unusual in that.


Body-centred psychotherapy.  The Hakomi Method.  By Ron Kurtz,

Copyright 1990 LifeRhythm po box 806 Mendocino Ca ph (707) 037 1825

This book goes into great detail both in practise and in theory about the methods devised by the author -he first formed an institute and started teaching his method in 1980.  The authors' background has involved work with Moshe Feldenkreis,  Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and many other methods. I think the book is fascinating - going into great detail on practical and theoretical matters as well some typical things that happen when working with patients - also actual language used.  He also covers things such as on page 58 " Signs of Cooperation and how it is earned."...  and  " Signs of resistance and how it is evoked by the therapist…" (going on to give practical examples) for both headings.

The book encourages the patient to become curious about what they are experiencing and their reactions to the experience.

Excerpts taken from the preface;  "Hakomi (or hakimi) is a Hopi Indian word …. the current usage is "who are you" …. it's archaic meaning is "how do you stand in relation to these many realms".  "Hakomi is a non-violent psychotherapy.  It is a way to help people change that allows for the wisdom and healing power in each of us."  "There are three states we work with; mindfulness; strong emotion and a state in which a childlike consciousness appears."

These quotes are from the introduction;

"Hakome is a method for helping people change their way of being in the world through working with core material and changing core beliefs.  It is a transformational method and it follows a general outline:  First, we work to build a relationship which maximizes safety and the cooperation of the unconscious.  With that relationship, we help the client focus on and study how he or she organizes experience.  Most behavior is habit, automatically organized by core material.   Thus, when we study the organization of experience, we are studying the influence of this core material.  It is usually a simple step from that to direct contact with core feeling, beliefs and memories. "

"For example, the client could be slowly raising an arm upward in a real or imagined context of reaching out to someone, all the while studying the experience thus created.  Perhaps, at some point in the arm's travel, the client notices fear.  Casually and quickly raising the arm, especially if it is part of doing something like getting a jar down off the shelf, won't evoke that fear.  It is mindfulness - the slowness of the action, the self-observing and the focus on experience (rather than the contents of the jar ….) that does the job.  The fear most likely relates to memories and beliefs about reaching out to others.  Following the evocation of the fear (or whatever experience is evoked), a transition to processing takes place, if the client is ready."


 Bioenergetics .Alexander Lowen.  Body-based psychotherapy.

SoulCollage.  An intuitive collage process for individuals and groups.   by Seena B Frost.

pub by Hanford Mead publishers inc.,copyright 2001 Seena B. Frost, isbn 0-9643158-4-x

I recently attended a Saturday 4-hr SoulCollage drop in session (Aug '07) and found it very absorbing and interesting - great to do it in a group, a great way to spend an afternoon for yourself.  Karen Mann of  is running them from Northcote, Melbourne.  Sometimes the presenter gives an idea to focus on when you're making the card, (as there are many different ways to go about this process), but this day she asked us to pick whatever images appealed or called out to us, gather them up and start cutting out and pasting them on to cards she gave us.  This was really interesting - I hadn't cut and pasted for fun since I was I child and these images did  have lots of meaning for me.  Some did 5 cards in our 4 hr session, I just did one.  We all laid out our cards for everyone to have a look and said something if we wished about them.  We then were asked to do some journaling about the card we made and did a sort of reading.   It is just about your own interpretation of the images - no one else is doing that for you, and your interpretation and ideas about cards can change over time.  If you asked another person to speak about your card, you would get some quite different descriptions and ideas coming out of that, and probably some similar ones too.  Some cards seem to come out archetypal, some very quirky and personal.  The most interesting thing to me is the idea of just whacking images down without thinking about it and seeing what comes up.  My own card was thought out and "worked" on rather than just using intuition, but showed me an insight about myself and a goal I would like to achieve, just by changing my thinking and way of interacting with people.  So next time you see a magazine with an image ripped out - instead of cursing the culprit, you may think "Oh, there is another SoulCollager in the world - I wonder what that image was…"

Karen Mann can let you know where to get the book.

The book has many black and white (and some colour) illustrations of SoulCollage cards made by Seena and others and peoples journaling and thoughts about the cards and ways of reading them


 "The Soul Collage process is a way to tend soul and explore psyche at the same time……Gradually, as you work with your SoulCollage cards, the various ways in which your personal life story is woven into the Larger, Divine Story become clearer.  Patterns unique to you emerge.  The Many that makes up this being who is "you" may begin to be recognized also as part of the "One" or the Source.  Unexpected knowings will almost certainly bubble up."

"The SoulCollage process originated in a program led by Jean Houston from 1987 to 1989.  It was a time when I was immersed in world myths, archetypal psychology, and various spiritual practices.  I was also practicing psychotherapy in my private, professional practice.  The card-making process evolved over time with the aid of many women in my therapy groups.  As they made cards, shared them with each other, and consulted them, we explored together the transforming possibilities of these images."

Quote from  a SoulCollage card maker, "Because I'm such a visual person, putting the things into images and making cards without knowing what I'm doing has given me insights into my psyche I hadn't had before.  It is like another language."

Bellydance Orientalism Transnationalism and Harem Fantasy Ed by Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young.  Copyright 2005 by Anthony Shay and Barbary Sellers-Young.  Mazda Publishers Inc. Calfornia USA

This book presents chapters by many different authors (including the editors) on various topics - from the dance as it is seen in the Middle-East to the west's fantasies of the dance, on male dance entertainers' traditions in the Middle-East, to Middle-Eastern dance and jurisprudence.  It also has chapters on various ways bellydance has developed in the USA.  Well worth a read.

I put a spell on you.  Dancing women from Salome to Madonna by Wendy Buonaventura, copyright Wendy Buonaventura 2003

Saqi Books, London

Isadora Duncan, Madonna, tango, waltz, body image, changing the body for beauty, sex, sensuality,cancan, Collette, Egypt in Napoleonic times, male bellydancers - day to day life of dancers, ballet, opera houses and prostitution, Mae west, flappers, flat chests, etc  short haircut & band across forehead started by Irene Castle when she had an operation. 

 Lots of historic info around the times of these changes.  Great photos.

 Easy read, choppy but passionate and entertaining

My Father's Notebook by,  Kadar Abdollah,   Text Publishing
ISBN-13 9781921145193

This is an amazing book about life in Iran in a village with a deaf father written from the child's point of view. The child became the father's communicator and they worked out a sign language of their own.  Perhaps that's why the author is so good at painting word pictures - he escaped from Iran and learnt dutch and wrote a best-seller that is now translated into English - how good is that!

This interview with a Kadar Abdollah was on Radio National Bookshow on 16th May  07 - it is really worth listening to - Kader is very interesting and funny. Hope the link still works

  here is a link to part of the story

Married to a Bedouin by Marguerite Van Geldermalsen

Copyright 2006 Marguerite Van Geldermalsen

Virago Press, U.K.

Marguerite, grew up in New Zealand and while on holiday in Jordan, fell in love and married a Bedouin man and had three children with him, living in a "cave"  near Petra - the famous carved rock city - their house was a partially carved out room in the rock onto which was built a front wall, door and window and a little kitchen room next door.  They were together for 24 years -- unfortunately he became ill and died and Marguerite is now living in Australia with her children.

Marguerite is a wonderful writer and the book is a great read. - I read it all in one go.

It talks about daily life in their camp - it's very interesting, informative and sometimes very funny.  It mentions customs at weddings, childbirth, protective measures such as magic charms for the evil eye etc, prophetic dreams, the limited food they had, and ways of preparing it, living in goats-hair tents that the women wove themselves.  The people who lived in the caves often had tents as well.

Eventually, they resettled out of Petra (the authorities built primitive houses for them and resettled them further away, though they still traveled to Petra to work with the tourists).

The Orient in the Mirror by Roland and Sabrina Michaud.

A book  with costumes and pictures of everyday life photographed since 1958, contrasted with old painted miniatures (usually with the same type of scene) calligrap,hy in different styles and lots of quotes from the Koran and "The Thousand and One Nights".  Beautiful and inspiring.

Copyright Thames and Hudson, London (publishers) 2003

These Authors have also done a photo essay book called Caravans of Tartary by the same publishers. 

Thames and Hudson have also pubished similar books on Damascus, Morrocco, the Bazaars of the Islamic world & the World of Islam.

Prisoner of Tehran.  The end of childhood in Iran by Marina Nemat.

Copyright Marina Nemat 2007

John Murray (Publishers), LondonMarina is a wonderful writer - writing simply and eloquently, painting word pictures - much as if she were talking to you.

Marina was a Christian that grew up in Tehran, but in 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power she arrested and put into the infamous Evin prison (located in many buildings across Tehran), as a teenager at high school - for being suspected of being anti government (she had once protested that the calculus teacher should be teaching maths and not the Koran, and walked out (and surprisingly the class had walked out with her).  She had also met a female student who was believed to be an anti-government organizer.  Those acts resulted in her arrest.  Torture was the process you underwent when you first got there…standard procedure.   Many people were executed or given life sentences or just died  there.

Marina was saved from her death sentence by a guard who convinced a higher authority to give her a life sentence instead - in exchange he forced her to be his mistress and she had a baby by him - living in prison all the time.  This man was in love with her, but was a torturer and Marina could not love him.

Somehow she got out and emigrated to Canada remarried, had kids….   But she found she couldn't sleep - the images from her past would disturb her - (we'd classify it as post tramatic stress disorder).   She found most people would not talk about the past.  Then she discovered that the same things were still going on in Evin in 2003,when a Canadian/Iranian female journalist was filming a protest in Tehran, she was arrested and died a few days later, from being beaten - she was also brutally raped.  Because she was Canadian, the world got to hear about it.  But this had still been going on in Iran all this time.  This spurred Marina into action to write her book and expose the system there.

The book chronicles the way her childhood was and the changes that happened as she was growing up including the political situation - it also chronicles the close friendships the women in prison developed - how people lived and survived including the stories of women who died and were very close to Marina.

Persepolis is a wonderful animated film (in black and white) - this following quote is from Wikipedia... ""a book in comic form and and film  written and directed by Marjane Satrapi.....  The story follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, which goes horribly wrong with Islamic fundamentalists taking power and creating a new theocratic tyranny themselves; the story ends with Marjane as a 21-year-old expatriate. The title is a reference to the historic city of Persepolis."