Somehow, i have always been intrigued by the arab world. The stringent cultures, their total lack of respect for any other religion,the harsh rules and punishments, the apparent downtrodden state of women, the richness and wealth, their taste in architecture, all these somehow filled me with a strange mix of fancy and fear. Not being an ardent believer of any one religion or god [i firmly believe that there's just one universal power], from my very childhood i wanted to find out more about this undisclosing group of people. Its probably this trait of mine which has developed in me to read as much as possible about it. And read is exactly what i did. Any book which talks about the followers of prophet mohammad or their lives, i could never do without reading it. In fact, at one stage of my life i had become so obsessed about knowing more that i even contemplated heading off to Saudi Arabia [Since this is where we get find the most revered and firm believers in the preachings of prophet mohammad]. But this was solely delayed due to the fact that i dint have a passport and that i was just in tenth Standard. My father would have had a fit had i told him that i wanted to head off to Saudi Arabia after my tenth [ :) ]. I knew i would make it possible some day and i decided to save my father from the shock until then.
Hence my first trip to dubai was filled with anticipation. It was like my life's one of the biggest dream coming true. I was finally about to set foot in the land which had me so intrigued. Sad to say, i was filled with dismay on landing there since it was nothing similar to the image conjured up by my young mind from the age of fifteen. While one side of me rejoiced in seeing all the vast beauty and facilities dubai had to offer , a small part of me still longed to see the strict and reserved arab world. Each time my brother pointed out a house which was possibly occupied by some rich arab family, all the images i had in my mind from the many years of reading just ran in front of my eyes. How i longed to ring the bell and enter the 'forbidden door to non-muslims and foreigners', to see the life i had read so much about, to see the people i had unconsiously befriended, all the sultana's and mariam's and ali's and muhammad's. It is indeed strange that the human nature always loves to pursue what has been kept out of reach, what has been deeply guarded.
Of the many memorable places in dubai i visited, my favourite remains the traditional arab village we had visited 'The Hatta Heritage Village' and the desert tour. Walking through the traditional village, it was almost as if i could hear the voices of people who had spent their lives in the desert.The kids who had played unknowing of the harsh realities in the future, the women crouching in fear and meekly obeying the menfolk, the veils covering their face, the much despised 'Abaaya' [ Long black outer cloak] covering every inch of their skin from the eyes of everyone around, the sweet smell of 'Athar' casting a forbidden and tantalising aroma around them. [This is another of the many possessions i have preserved from my dubai trip, Athar. Even before i set foot in the land of my dreams, i had decided i wanted something of that land to take back with me, to rekindle the Arab world thoughts in me.And what's more good for it than the aroma of the Arab land itself - Athar. ]
Even after returning back home, my curiosity still managed to eat at the back of my head. So when i first laid my eyes on the book 'Princess' by Jean Sasson, i couldnt resist but plunge headlong into it. And i must say i came out shocked and shaken. Probably it might have been that my earlier collection of books had never mentioned anything about the Arab life is such detail or outlined the animosities in such detail. The book managed to leave me thinking. Thinking about all the many thoughts which had been in my memory for the last 10 or so years.
I suggest, the book - MUST READ. The author has managed to give such a vivid description of every incident in the Princess Sultana's life that you manage to feel the pain and the helplesness that she feels. It makes your heart pound and makes you want to scream out to every single person around you ---to let a woman live.
PS: If you are a feminist, highly likely that you end up firming your beliefs about it on reading this book.
Another book, which holds a very special place in my heart 'A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS'. It remains special to me cause i finished reading the book in the Oil rich Arab Land.
Nonetheless, my curiosity of the arab world has not reduced and i still want to make my trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia someday in my lifetime.
Next book i plan to read - Daughters of Arabia and Love in a Torn Land. Comments and reviews about it in a later post.