Guests of the Sheik

By Elizabeth Warnock Fernea,

Book cover of Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village

Book description

A delightful account of one woman's two-year stay in a tiny rural village in Iraq, where she assumed the dress and sheltered life of a harem woman. 

"A most enjoyable book abouut [Muslim women]—simple, dignified, human, colorful, sad and humble as the life they lead." —Muhsin Mahdi, Jewett Professor of…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Guests of the Sheik as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Fernea describes a lost culture in a small Iraqi village, El Nahra, in 1956, where her husband Robert was conducting ethnographic research. She met with women in the village, learned the language and culture then wrote her own study of 1950s women. The book presents insights into the life of rural Iraqi women at a time of poverty and hardship.

In the late 1950s, Fernea accompanied her anthropologist husband to a small village in Iraq. While he spent his days on his research, she was left with the local women, living like them and learning their language. While welcoming this outsider into their midst, the Iraqi women find her ways strange and perplexing. Knowing almost nothing of the local culture when she arrives, Fernea writes movingly about their reactions and her own comparisons with American culture. She describes the evolution in her thinking as she learns more about the values and beliefs that motivate them. This book offers a chance…

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