The most recommended bedouin books

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to bedouin, and here are their favorite bedouin books.
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Book cover of Tents and Pyramids: Games and Ideology in Arab Culture from Backgammon to Autocratic Rule

Andrea Rugh Author Of Egyptian Advice Columnists: Envisioning the Good Life in an Era of Extremism

From my list on how culture influences Middle Eastern history.

Who am I?

From over three decades of work on development projects in countries of the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Africa, I am convinced that when efforts fail, it is invariably because we lack the cultural understanding of what people want or how we provide it. These books all reinforce my point by either underlining the way culture shapes the way people see the world or by showing how when we neglect culture, we do so at our own peril. Culture can be discovered through multiple entry points with these books offering a good start. Even something as mundane as advice columns in newspapers offer political insights when plumbed for the meanings below the surface.

Andrea's book list on how culture influences Middle Eastern history

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

In Tents and Pyramids, Khuri describes how Arabs’ ways of seeing and dealing with reality have implications for power in the Middle East. He juxtaposes tents—the low horizontal Bedouin ones—against vertical hierarchical pyramids. Khuri argues that authority is not built into the tent approach—rather the strategy is to act as equal groups with leaders who are only “first among equals” and isolated individuals are the vulnerable ones. The second group, imagined as hierarchical pyramids, has no standardized rules for succession and ends up being the ones who conquer the rest. To stay in power these autocrats need strong militaries to keep the public from holding them accountable. Although Khuri’s framework doesn’t always hold up, it offers a useful way of imaging the region’s power structures.    

By Fuad I. Khuri,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tents and Pyramids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study deals with an unusual and absorbing topic: how the Arabs see and deal with reality and the implications this has for the nature of power in the Arab world. "Tents" and "pyramids" are, metaphorically, opposed mental images; the first signifies the absence of hierarchy and graded authority, the second the presence of both, Khuri argues that the Arabs perceive both social and physical reality as a series of discrete, non-pyramidal structures that are inherently equal in value - much like a Bedouin encampment composed of tents scattered haphazardly on a flat desert surface with no visible hierarchy. Authority…


Book cover of A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby

Leslie K. Simmons Author Of Red Clay, Running Waters

From my list on little known people in history.

Who am I?

Growing up in Philadelphia, History was in the air I breathed. Reading about my surroundings led me to want to understand the times and the ways people lived in the past. The Classics inspired a love for the cadence of language (especially 19th C lit). Visiting local museums and historic places added fuel to my passion for Historical Fiction. I believe we learn best from history and the human experience through empathy and putting ourselves in other’s shoes, which Historical Fiction is able to do by introducing us to a fascinating array of characters, places and times—real and imagined.

Leslie's book list on little known people in history

Leslie K. Simmons Why did Leslie love this book?

How Jane Digby escaped public notoriety in the present day is miraculous and certainly no reflection of the reputation she garnered in her own time.

If Gertrude Bell pushed the Edwardians into the post-colonial future, Digby forged the path for her. I have to wonder if Bell well knew of Digby’s life in the Middle East after she blithely married and liaised across Europe on her way. Gobsmackingly independent, she cared little for public opinion in making her choices. 

By Mary S. Lovell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Scandalous Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The biography of Jane Digby, an 'enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart - and hormones - ruled her head.' Harpers and Queen

A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which included an Austrian prince, King Ludvig I of Bavaria, and a Greek count whose infidelities drove her to the Orient. In Syria, she found the love of her life, a Bedouin nobleman, Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab who was twenty…


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.

Who am I?

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 A Bedouin Boyhood

Kim Barnes Author Of In the Kingdom of Men

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

Who am I?

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?

A simple yet elegantly written memoir about growing up in mid-century as a Palestinian Arab Bedouin. Diqs’ focus is not on politics but on family, tribe, and tradition as he details his boyhood and his people’s dislocation and transition from nomads tending their sheep to an agrarian, village-based culture. Diqs’ written memories provided me with a profound and intimate awareness of the details of Bedouin life before the partitioning of Palestine and the petroleum industry’s impact on the Middle East.

By Isaak Diqs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Bedouin Boyhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Isaak Diqs recalls his life as a member of the nomadic Arab tribe on the Negev Desert in Palestine


Book cover of Across the Empty Quarter

Clemens P. Suter Author Of Rebound

From my list on people with guts.

Who am I?

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 Men Who Swallowed the Sun

Gretchen McCullough Author Of Confessions of a Knight Errant: Drifters, Thieves, and Ali Baba's Treasure

From my list on rambunctious adventure tales.

Who am I?

I love humorous tales with quirky characters who find themselves in bizarre situations, especially in foreign countries. This mirrors my own experience of the world! After Brown University, I found myself teaching rowdy Egyptian girls; I resided in a converted classroom in Istanbul; and I was tamed by an eighty-year-old Spanish nun at a girls’ school in Tokyo. In my late thirties, I dropped my anchor in Lattakia, Syria, only to be tailed by the Syrian secret police. Like the character in my novel, Confessions of a Knight Errant, I returned to Cairo from Almeria, Spain where I was on a writers’ residency on January 28th, the Friday of Rage, of the Egyptian uprising, 2011. 

Gretchen's book list on rambunctious adventure tales

Gretchen McCullough Why did Gretchen love this book?

I reviewed this novel, and I really loved it. Many folks think they know what migrants experience from the news, but this novel tells the story with a different spin: an Egyptian Bedouin who tries to get to Italy via Libya.

Living in Libya is as absurd as it is dangerous. The narrator is a hassler, but you still feel sorry for him when he almost gets killed by a customer for using cheap spray paint in a body shop in Libya. Besides the body shop, he works as a bootlegger, cook, and a concrete-block maker before he makes a harrowing crossing on a flimsy boat across the Mediterranean.

Once in Italy, he gets a few jobs in construction but then falls into a gang of drug dealers. He is Egyptian but pretends to be an Iraqi named “Baffo.” One crazy thing happens after another until he needs to make…

By Hamdi Abu Golayyel, Humphrey Davies (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Men Who Swallowed the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Abu Golayyel’s gritty tale of two men’s ill-conceived quest for a better life via the deserts of the Middle East and the cities of Europe is pure storytelling

Two Bedouin men from Egypt’s Western Desert seek to escape poverty through different routes. One—the intellectual, terminally self-doubting, and avowedly autobiographical Hamdi—gets no further than southern Libya’s fly-blown oasis of Sabha, while his cousin—the dashing, irrepressible Phantom Raider—makes it to the fleshpots of Milan.

The backdrop of this darkly comic and unsentimental story of illegal immigration is a brutal Europe and Muammar Gaddafi’s rickety, rhetoric-propped Great State of the Masses, where “the…


Book cover of Syria: The Desert and the Sown

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Who am I?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

The Desert and the Sown is perhaps the most personal of all Gertrude Bell’s travel books revealing a deeply affectionate engagement with the people and places of Syria. It is the first of her books that I read while researching the subject of Bedouin tribes in early 20th century Syria. I wanted to know what connection the Bedouin tribal elites had to the major trading cities such as Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. There, in her description of Damascus, she revealed the evidence I had been looking for: “In Damascus the sheikhs of the richer tribes have their townhouses; you may meet Muhammad of the Hasene or Bassan of the Beni Rashid peacocking down the bazaars on a fine Friday; in embroidered cloaks and purple and silver kerchiefs fastened about their brows with camel’s hair ropes bound with gold…” I can just see those tribal leaders now in my mind’s…

By Gertrude Bell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'You may rely upon one thing - I'll never engage in creating kings again; it's too great a strain.'

Gertrude Bell - traveller, scholar, archaeologist, spy - was one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East in the 20th century. With T.E. Lawrence, she was a significant force behind the Arab Revolt and was responsible for creating the boundaries of the modern state of Iraq, as well as installing the Hashemite dynasty, with Faisal I as king, in Iraq and Transjordan. Her knowledge of the Arab world was forged through decades of travel and the relationships she built…


Book cover of Cornered

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

From Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Kathleen Baldwin Why did Kathleen love this book?

This book was a preordered auto-buy for me. Why? First off, I’m crazy about spy stories—pair it with a sweet historical romantic suspense and ding-ding-ding! Sold! It becomes a must-read. Big surprise, right? Since that’s what I write. LOL.

Cornered is a WWII romantic suspense mixed with the added bonus of medical intrigue and a heroine with some serious gumption. So, yay, it hit several of my all-time favorite fictional plot elements. And bonus, it’s from one of my favorite authors. I'm a big fan of Ms. Ferrell's Neptune Five series, and this one is a keeper. I love the way this author incorporates realistic medical scenarios seamlessly into her suspense stories.

Not only that, but in this book, there was some way cool history that I didn't know about. I had no idea that in World War II there were fronts even in Morocco. Ferrell sails her homespun,…

By Suzanne Ferrell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

August, 1941
America remains neutral in the war in Europe, but signs of the Axis army’s expanding power grab have many in America believing their involvement in the war is only a matter of time. In preparation for that event, they begin gathering information from all areas of conflict.

A Moroccan Mission
A descendant of the Pirate Blackbeard, Warren Smith, aka Chief, has spent his life on the sea, and now he pilots the Folly for the undercover Neptune Five team. As war rages in Europe, danger lurks everywhere, even in remote parts of the world. The Neptune Five embark…


Book cover of Wind, Sand and Stars

Kelly Cordes Author Of The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre

From my list on belief and finding meaning from the meaningless.

Who am I?

Some thirty years ago, on a frozen waterfall near an old logging town in Montana, my life changed forever. A friend took me climbing. Almost instantly, upon leaving the ground, the mountains became my singular passion. I lived in run-down shacks and worked dead-end jobs, freeing myself to travel and to climb. Along the way I stumbled into an editorial job with the American Alpine Journal, where I worked for twelve years, deepening my knowledge of mountains, including the incomparable Cerro Torre. I know that climbing is overtly pointless. What we gain from it, however—what it demands and what we give in return—has immeasurable power.

Kelly's book list on belief and finding meaning from the meaningless

Kelly Cordes Why did Kelly love this book?

Saint-Exupery’s descriptions of what he sees and feels during enthralling activities amid stunning landscapes left me enchanted. The feelings he captures extend beyond the mere act of flying and into human relationships and our quest for meaning, written in beautiful, often philosophical prose. He approached flying as a metaphor for life and the human condition. Even if I will never fly, he made me care. 

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Wind, Sand and Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The National Book Award-winning autobiographical book about the wonder of flying from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the beloved children's classic The Little Prince.

A National Geographic Top Ten Adventure Book of All Time

Recipient of the Grand Prix of the Académie Française, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the grandeur, danger, and isolation of flight. Its exciting account of air adventure, combined with lyrical prose and the spirit of a philosopher, makes it one of the most popular works ever written about flying.

Translated by Lewis Galantière.

"There are certain rare individuals...who by the mere fact of their existence put…


Book cover of Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Ben Wiener Author Of Murder at First Principles

From my list on non-business reads that teach business strategy.

Who am I?

I am an experienced entrepreneur and venture capitalist and a voracious reader. My reading, particularly of non-business books, is motivated not just by a natural curiosity, but is also driven by a continuous search for metaphors and lessons from outside the traditional business genre that I can apply to situations and decisions in the business arena. My appreciation of the crossover benefit of non-business narratives to business contexts has motivated me to write my own Business Fiction works to “enlighten and entertain.” 

Ben's book list on non-business reads that teach business strategy

Ben Wiener Why did Ben love this book?

Yes, that T.E. Lawrence, of “Lawrence of Arabia” fame.

Turns out that not only was he an exquisite writer, but his account of his years as a British officer who self-embedded with Arab tribesmen during the First World War provides deep lessons for business success.

For starters, just because you’re highly intelligent and educated (Oxford, in his case), don’t assume you must agree with your superiors or yourself about the true motivations and interest of your customers, until you get to know them intimately.

Walk a mile in their shoes – or perhaps thousands of miles in their sandals – and then you might get insights about how to best work with them that might surprise you, and run counter to your prior presumptions.

By T. E. Lawrence,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Seven Pillars of Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by Angus Calder.

As Angus Calder states in his introduction to this edition, 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of the major statements about the fighting experience of the First World War'. Lawrence's younger brothers, Frank and Will, had been killed on the Western Front in 1915. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, written between 1919 and 1926, tells of the vastly different campaign against the Turks in the Middle East - one which encompasses gross acts of cruelty and revenge and ends in a welter of stink and corpses in the disgusting 'hospital' in Damascus.

Seven Pillars of…