100 books like At the Drop of a Veil

By Marianne Alireza,

Here are 100 books that At the Drop of a Veil fans have personally recommended if you like At the Drop of a Veil. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Woman's Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth

Andrea Rugh Author Of Simple Gestures: A Cultural Journey into the Middle East

From my list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders.

Why am I passionate about this?

My quest after culture began as a child reading National Geographic and wondering about exotic peoples. Later with a PhD in anthropology and living decades in the Middle East, I had a chance to immerse myself in the lives of people going about their normal activities. Eventually their thinking became almost as familiar as my own. The anthropologist Edward Hall says culture is elusive, “and what it hides it hides most effectively from its own practitioners.” He suggests that detached outsiders sometimes see cultures more clearly than local observers who have difficulty viewing themselves dispassionately. As outsider-writers, they validate insights much like anthropologists do, through comparisons of cultural values across time and space. 

Andrea's book list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

Steil accepts a short-term assignment in 2006 to teach a journalism class to the local staff of a Yemeni newspaper in the capital, Sanaa. Intrigued by the experience of teaching and befriending men and women of totally different values and beliefs, she extends her stay for a year. She recounts the difficulties of teaching journalism and living in a country where the values she once saw as normal, are constantly being challenged. As often happens with sensitive outsiders, she also sees some advantages of Yemen’s conservative culture that make her question aspects of her own thinking. 

By Jennifer Steil,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Woman Who Fell from the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I had no idea how to find my way around this medieval city. It was getting dark. I was tired. I didn’t speak Arabic. I was a little frightened. But hadn’t I battled scorpions in the wilds of Costa Rica and prevailed? Hadn’t I survived fainting in a San José brothel?  Hadn’t I once arrived in Ireland with only $10 in my pocket and made it last two weeks? Surely I could handle a walk through an unfamiliar town. So I took a breath, tightened the black scarf around my hair, and headed out to take my first solitary steps…


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

Teresa Fava Thomas Author Of American Arabists in the Cold War Middle East, 1946–75: From Orientalism to Professionalism

From my list on Americans living and working in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

Teresa Fava Thomas, Ph.D. is a professor of history at Fitchburg State University and author of American Arabists in the Cold War Middle East, 1946-75: From Orientalism to Professionalism for Anthem Press. I became interested in people who became area experts for the US State Department and how their study of hard languages like Arabic shaped their interactions with people in the region.

Teresa's book list on Americans living and working in the Middle East

Teresa Fava Thomas Why did Teresa love this book?

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.

By Elizabeth Warnock Fernea,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Guests of the Sheik as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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 Arabic Literature, Harvard Unversity.

A wonderful, well-written, and vastly informative ethnographic study that offers a unique insight into a part of the Midddle Eastern life seldom seen by the West.


Book cover of Letters from Egypt

Andrea Rugh Author Of Simple Gestures: A Cultural Journey into the Middle East

From my list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders.

Why am I passionate about this?

My quest after culture began as a child reading National Geographic and wondering about exotic peoples. Later with a PhD in anthropology and living decades in the Middle East, I had a chance to immerse myself in the lives of people going about their normal activities. Eventually their thinking became almost as familiar as my own. The anthropologist Edward Hall says culture is elusive, “and what it hides it hides most effectively from its own practitioners.” He suggests that detached outsiders sometimes see cultures more clearly than local observers who have difficulty viewing themselves dispassionately. As outsider-writers, they validate insights much like anthropologists do, through comparisons of cultural values across time and space. 

Andrea's book list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

In the 1860s, the ailing Lady Duff Gordon is advised by doctors to seek warmer climes if she is to recover from an advanced case of tuberculous. She travels to Egypt and embarks from Cairo by sailing a boat up the Nile and deep into Nubia. Along the way she comments on encounters with people of all classes and occupations that she meets. The book stands in stark contrast to the largely unsympathetic picture of the Egyptian peasantry by other British writers of the time. Her sympathetic portrayal includes seeing the importance of Islam and deploring foreign efforts to convert the population to Christianity. Her depictions show that even during this early period certain basic values existed that in a general way still guide behavior today in Egypt.   

By Lucie Duff Gordon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Letters from Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1862, Lucie Duff Gordon left her husband and three children in England and settled in Egypt, where she remained for the rest of her short life. Seeking respite from her tuberculosis in the dry air, she moved into a ramshackle house above a temple in Luxor, and soon became an indispensable member of the community. Setting up a hospital in her home, she welcomed all - from slaves to local leaders. Her humane, open-minded voice shines across the centuries through these letters - witty, life-affirming, joyous, self-deprecating and utterly enchanted by her Arab neighbours.


Book cover of In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

Andrea Rugh Author Of Simple Gestures: A Cultural Journey into the Middle East

From my list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders.

Why am I passionate about this?

My quest after culture began as a child reading National Geographic and wondering about exotic peoples. Later with a PhD in anthropology and living decades in the Middle East, I had a chance to immerse myself in the lives of people going about their normal activities. Eventually their thinking became almost as familiar as my own. The anthropologist Edward Hall says culture is elusive, “and what it hides it hides most effectively from its own practitioners.” He suggests that detached outsiders sometimes see cultures more clearly than local observers who have difficulty viewing themselves dispassionately. As outsider-writers, they validate insights much like anthropologists do, through comparisons of cultural values across time and space. 

Andrea's book list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

In the 2000s, Tahir Shah travels around Morocco collecting traditional wisdom stories and relying on the hospitality of local people for shelter and food. Shah is an outsider in a different way from the rest of the outsider authors here. Although growing up in the West, he nonetheless absorbs the Afghan culture of his family. From his Afghan father especially he learns the importance of storytelling as a way of passing on cultural values. The Moroccans know he is a foreigner but see him as an Anglo-Afghan more sympathetic than the normal Westerner. As a result, they reveal facets of their lives not normally shared with outsiders. The book shows how those seeking to understand culture must be open to finding it in all sorts of places.

By Tahir Shah,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Arabian Nights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortly after the 2005 London bombings, Tahir Shah was thrown into a Pakistani prison on suspicion of spying for Al-Qaeda. What sustained him during his terrifying, weeks-long ordeal were the stories his father told him as a child in Morocco.
Inspired by this, on his return to his adopted homeland he embarked on an adventure worthy of the mythical Arabian Nights, going in search of the stories and storytellers that have nourished this most alluring of countries for centuries. Wandering through the medinas of Fez and Marrakech, criss-crossing the Saharan sands and tasting the hospitality of ordinary Moroccans, he collected…


Book cover of Cities of Salt

Kim Barnes Author Of In the Kingdom of Men

From my list on Arabic writers on the destruction of colonization.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the 1950s, my mother and father left the red dirt of Oklahoma for the forests of Idaho to escape their families’ poverty. Instead of sharecropping, my father became a logger, but my aunt and her husband, a drilling rig roughneck, moved to the deserts of Saudi Arabia to work for Aramco and live in the American compound of Abqaiq. I remember the gifts they brought me: camel hide purses, Aladdin slippers. The Saudis, too, were experiencing rapid modernization and expanding wealth. I became fascinated by the conflict inherent in the sudden enmeshing of cultures and meteoric shift in power and privilege.

Kim's book list on Arabic writers on the destruction of colonization

Kim Barnes Why did Kim love this book?

Translated into English by Peter Theroux, this gorgeously written and emotionally stunning novel is told from the perspective of the Bedouin inhabitants during a time when Americans were arriving by the shipload to develop the oilfields they had discovered. The story is both epic and intimate (and, at points, wittily ironic) and opened my eyes to the vast destruction not only of the land and its people but the very core of their culture. Banned in several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, this is the first volume of a trilogy (and I recommend them all). 

By Abdelrahman Munif,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cities of Salt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first English translation of a major Arab writer's novel that reveals the lifestyle and beliefs of a Bedouin tribe in the 1930s. Set in an unnamed Persian Gulf kingdom, the story tells of the cultural confrontation between American oilmen and a poor oasis community.


Book cover of America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier

Steven A. Cook Author Of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

From my list on understanding the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S. Middle East policy. 

Steven's book list on understanding the Middle East

Steven A. Cook Why did Steven love this book?

Vitalis' meticulously researched volume is about Saudi Arabia and the United States. In lucid prose, he makes the controversial case that American oil prospectors in the 20th century recreated the patterns of domination that dominated the exploitation of resources in the American West in Saudi Arabia. The argument smashes long-held truths and myths about the origins of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

By Robert Vitalis, Robert Vitalis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America's Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

America's Kingdom debunks the many myths that now surround the United States's "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia, or what is less reverently known as "the deal": oil for security. Taking aim at the long-held belief that the Arabian American Oil Company, ARAMCO, made miracles happen in the desert, Robert Vitalis shows that nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that oil led the U.S. government to follow the company to the kingdom. Eisenhower agreed to train Ibn Sa'ud's army, Kennedy sent jets to defend the kingdom, and Lyndon Johnson sold it missiles. Oil and ARAMCO quickly…


Book cover of Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East

Patricia Goldstone Author Of Aaronsohn's Maps: The Man Who Might Have Created Peace in the Modern Middle East

From my list on changing discussions about the modern Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the Middle East ever since being taken to see Kismet at the age of 3. I travel there extensively, married into it, and have lived inside the Middle East community in the US for the past thirty years. I’m also a journalist, a playwright, and the author of three non-fiction books, Making the World Safe for Tourism, Aaronsohn’s Maps, and INTERLOCK: Art, Conspiracy, and The Shadow Worlds of Mark Lombardi. Although I wouldn't argue that the issue of women’s rights isn't an urgent one, as a woman who focuses on history and geopolitics, I’m often disturbed at how it's being used to whip up popular emotion and obscure other driving forces. 

Patricia's book list on changing discussions about the modern Middle East

Patricia Goldstone Why did Patricia love this book?

I’m going to be sneaky here and wedge two books in for the price of one. Kim Ghattas’ Black Wave is a beautifully written and reported, intimate history of the destructive ideological rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, a rivalry fuelled by the “tilt” policy of the Ronald Reagan administration that pitted the former allies against each other in an effort to keep them both weak (and unlikely to lead OPEC to attack the West again as they did in 1973). Ghattas, a Beiruti journalist who was friends with Jamal Khashoggi, grounds her history of the devastating cultural and geopolitical upheaval that followed in the personal and highly emotional stories of public intellectuals and other progressive thinkers who fought the Dark Age descending on the Middle East.

She finds her creation moment in the 1979 Iranian revolution, which occurred in the same year as the siege of the…

By Kim Ghattas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Black Wave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Blistering' Sunday Times
'Indispensable' Observer
'Fascinating' The Times
'Brilliant' Peter Frankopan
'Revelatory' Lindsey Hilsum

A timely and unprecedented examination of how the modern Middle East unravelled, and why it started with the pivotal year of 1979. Shortlisted for the Cundhill History Prize 2020

'What happened to us?'

For decades, the question has haunted the Arab and Muslim world, heard across Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and in the author's home country of Lebanon. Was it always so? When did the extremism, intolerance and bloodletting of today displace the region's cultural promise and diversity?

In Black Wave, award-winning journalist…


Book cover of Across the Empty Quarter

Clemens P. Suter Author Of Rebound

From my list on people with guts.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clemens P. Suter is an author of adventure novels. His books deal with people that overcome impossible, life-changing situations. These are entertaining adventure books, with dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and Scifi elements.

Clemens' book list on people with guts

Clemens P. Suter Why did Clemens love this book?

Thesiger was a British military officer, explorer, and writer, who, in the second half of the 20th century, traveled on foot, horse, and by camel across Arabia, the Middle East, and Africa. Rub' al Khali, the Empty Quarter, is the largest sand desert in the world, a desolate, dangerous plane of rolling dunes, with a very limited number of waterholes. At the time of Thesiger’s travels in the late 1940s, this desert had been traveled exclusively by the local Bedu. What makes this book intriguing is the description of the harsh landscape and the people that live in it. Thesiger traveled the desert with a purpose (he wanted to find out more about a locust with some ecological relevance), so he and his guides voyaged huge distances. As the reader turns the pages, the overwhelming sense of adventure and Thesiger’s lust for the unknown become contagious. Many books have…

By Wilfrid Thesiger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Across the Empty Quarter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Restless, gripped by an overwhelming wish to make a name for himself in a world ever more hemmed in by progress and 'civilization', Thesiger (1910-2003) embarked on his amazing journeys across Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter to test himself and to show what could still be done. The result was a monument both to his resilience and to the Bedu who guided him and who emerge as the book's real heroes. "Great Journeys" allows readers to travel both around the planet and back through the centuries - but also back into ideas and worlds frightening, ruthless and cruel in different ways…


Book cover of The Son King: Reform and Repression in Saudi Arabia

Simon Henderson Author Of After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia

From my list on understanding modern Saudi Arabia.

Why am I passionate about this?

British by birth, American by naturalization, Simon Henderson started in journalism as a trainee at the BBC before becoming its correspondent in Pakistan. Joining the Financial Times a year later, he was promptly sent to Iran to cover the 1979 Islamic revolution and went back again for the U.S. embassy hostage crisis. He now analyzes the Gulf states, energy, and the nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan as the Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Simon's book list on understanding modern Saudi Arabia

Simon Henderson Why did Simon love this book?

London-based Professor Al-Rasheed combines the objectivity of an academic with years of criticism of the House of Saud, and her consequent life in exile. One assumes the title is an allusion to Louis XIV of France who ruled for 72 years. A tougher read than the journalistic flows of the other books listed here, it is nevertheless very solid and perceptive.

By Madawi Al-Rasheed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Son King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2018, journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi regime operatives, shocking the international community and tarnishing the reputation of Muhammad bin Salman, the kingdom's young, reformist crown prince. Domestically, bin Salman's reforms have proven divisive, and his adoption of populist nationalism and fierce repression of diverse critical voices-religious scholars, feminists and dissident youth-have failed to silence a vibrant and well-connected Saudi society.

Madawi Al-Rasheed lays bare the world of repression behind the crown prince's reforms. She dissects the Saudi regime's propaganda and progressive new image, while also dismissing Orientalist views that despotism is the only pathway to stable governance…


Book cover of Enemy of the State

Robert Patrick Lewis Author Of The Pact

From my list on special operations soldiers fighting evil enemies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former Green Beret and combat veteran of OIF (Iraq), OEF (Afghanistan), and OEF-TS (North Africa). These experiences have given me insights into things that most people never get to see or even hear about, as well as first-hand knowledge of the men who make up the Special Operations community and what drives them. After leaving Special Forces I have written three published Special Operations-focused books, both fiction and non-fiction, which has led to a life of studying everything there is to know about Special Operations, the intelligence behind wars, and the history of both.

Robert's book list on special operations soldiers fighting evil enemies

Robert Patrick Lewis Why did Robert love this book?

In a book that was published before its time, Vince Flynn fictionalizes what some knew to be true many years ago: that the members of the Saudi royal family financed those who had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. Now that the curtains have been opened on these pieces of intelligence, this book is even more of a great read. Enemy of the State is written by perhaps one of the best spycraft authors of our time, and chronicles a former Special Operator who has been sent to Saudi Arabia to uncover the evidence of one of the greatest betrayals in history. Finding himself double-crossed and in a foreign land, he must fight and escape both the Saudi and American intelligence agencies & their networks to stay alive and bring the truth to the world.

By Kyle Mills,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enemy of the State as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR

The brilliant new Mitch Rapp thriller! The enduring mystery of just who really was behind the 9/11 attacks in America has never been solved - but now Mitch Rapp thinks he has the culprits in his sights and he's out for blood.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN, book one in the series, is now a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE starring Dylan O'Brien (Maze Runner), Taylor Kitsch (True Detective) and Michael Keaton.

Praise for the Mitch Rapp series
'Sizzles with inside information and CIA secrets' Dan Brown
'A cracking, uncompromising yarn that literally takes no prisoners' The…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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