I rarely review Polish books I read, if they don’t have an English translation available, I’m not hiding them, I just don’t want to tease you and I don’t think learning Polish just to read them in original version is really an option. In this case I decided to make an exception, because I’d like to also ask you to recommend books on similar topic.
Let’s start with the title, a direct translation would be Bedouin Women on Instagram. The author has lived in UAE for five years and got to know the culture of the Emirates well. She made many friends among local women. She worked hard to get out from the purely expat community and get to know the Emiratis. Her book, as suggested by the title, focuses on the life of women. Chrobak starts with her own experience as a foreign woman interacting with Emirati men. Moving on to women in the families she had a chance to meet; the mothers, daughters and cousins. She takes us to Bedouin wedding and to a shopping mall where secret dates get arranged. She talks about different perception of woman’s happiness in UAE, they do feel empowered and happy because they focus on different things than we do in Europe. Family is more important than the individual, this was something I struggled with, but something that is completely natural for Emiratis. Women having to ask men for permission to do anything is perceived not as a sign of control, but protection, being taken care of. There is a lot of similar examples of different values. What I like about this book is that it tries to explain and understand rather than judge. Different does not mean worse, it just means different.
The main thing that Chrobak rages against is the way the house servants are treated and how they are completely not protected by any law. To write her book Chrobak had to leave UAE, worried that she may be accused of defaming the country and end up in jail. It was a huge sacrifice on her side, but I’m happy she made it, with current islamophobia this book was needed. It shows different culture does not mean people are automatically enemies. What also helps is Chrobak’s easy to read prose, she is a great storyteller, the book reads almost like chik-lit.
I wanted to ask you about recommendations for other books about UAE and Arabic world and culture. I feel I don’t know nearly enough. Please list the best books you read on the topic in comments!