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Middle eastern women
Women in Arab Society
Guest of the Sheik
In the 1950’s, a newly married American women named Elizabeth Warnock Fernea accompanied her new husband for a two year stay in the small rural village of El Nahra located in Southern Iraq. This book encapsulates her different experiences of the town social agenda, while her husband an anthropologist gathers data in the community. Her adjustment into her new surroundings was quite difficult, simply because she lived in a mud hut that had no indoor plumbing for running water and toilets, she didn’t know the language all that well, and was not accustomed to the different local ways of life.
By accepting the different custom of dressing in the all black veils like the women in the harem, which fits in with the beliefs of the local conservative Islamic community, she was able to then interact with the different women located in town. Besides these women of the town and her husband she was not to speak to another male, because women’s interaction with men is strictly forbidden. There was one exception to this idea for Elizabeth, a servant named Mohammad that was provided by the Sheik to help deal with the different Arabic ways. It is here in Nahra, a known polygamous society, where there exists no social communication between the different sexes and the actions of the women are watched and maintained with great detail.
For Elizabeth, her participation in certain events within the town were limited, but as time passed and her acceptance grew it slowly changed. She was able to visit other women within the town, where they drank tea, smoked cigarettes, and chatted about life and one another’s different customs. It took a great deal of time for Elizabeth to be accepted by the different women, it took a great deal of months and many visits with the different women. As time passed more and more of the town’s women began to accepted her for who she was and who she was becoming. Because of her growing acceptance, she is then allowed to attend many of the different ceremonies and rituals that few Westerners, and no western men, have ever seen.
As Elizabeth had known before she had ever moved to Nahra with her husband, there was going to be a time when she was to leave it all behind and she would have to prepare to re-enter the Western world and its cultures. The different experiences that her and her husband had both acquired during their two-year stay made a lasting impression on them both, leaving them with a newly discovered perspectives and ideals.
Return to Childhood “The Memoir of a Modern Moroccan Women”
The 1950’s is marked as a period filled with much ciaos for Morocco, because these were the final days of fighting for independence form the French Colonial rule. A girl, Leila Abouzeid was growing up and having many different experiences, which she made mental notes of during this period of civil unrest, and was able to put it all into words, and fill up the pages of an entire book.
Through her eyes and the eloquence of the her words, we are able to see the development and cultivation of her personal relationships with her family and friends. It is her family which draws much of her attention, simply because of her father who was recognized as a hero in the national struggle. Although he was recognized as a hero, he caused much harm in the lives of his family. Because he was a nationalist, the government sought after him and placed him in jail. He was release a few times, but his freedom was short-lived, because he ended up in prison soon after. With this, much focus is placed on Leila’s mother who had to raise four daughters without a husband around.
Abouzeid, takes us through her many different experiences as the days of independence drew near, and soon came to be a reality. The power changes and struggles between the leaders is demonstrated because of the fathers involvement. It is through Leila, her mother, and her grandfather that we are able to account for these changes and how the absence of a father/husband/son figure affected their lives. By witnessing all that occurred through each set of
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Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, Ethnographers, Women in Arab societies, Women in Islam, Leila Abouzeid, Anthropology, Academia, Humanities
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