Thursday, August 21, 2008

Political awareness- in 3 books...

I have never been a politically minded person... never enjoyed watching the news or reading the paper. There- its out, I have admitted it.

Living here has changed me in that respect slightly, not hugely, but a definate change. I think the thing is that to me, at home in UK politics are all much of a muchness.... it doesn't seem to make much real difference to the people on the street who is in government, they all have good stuff and bad stuff and vary just slightly on policy. ( i know a lot of people, and some good friends, will argue these points- but thats how I , as an ignorant to politics sees it- sorry!)

Here it is VERY difference. People are hugely interested in politics- not just of their own country but of the whole Middle East. Every slight change seems to affect peoples lives hugely on a personal level. I became aware of my own ignorance.

In particular my ignorance of 2 major 'civil' wars. Lebanon and Israel/Palestine. The problems have been going on in these countries longer than I have been alive and it seemed naive of me to pretend they weren't happening anymore... so I trotted down to Diwan- my favourite bookshop in Cairo and decided to see what I could learn.

'The Lemon Tree' by Sandy Tolan is a FABULOUS book which discusses the Arab v's Jewish issues from a personal, religious and political viewpoint. One minute it is telling the story through the eyes of a Jewish family forced to flee Europe due to persecution there, and you really feel for their dilema. Next you are inside a Palestinian family home and hearing how they are forced out their homes and unable to return. It shows the whole complexity of trying to find a solution for everyone.... and when you are reading each viewpoint you totally see it from their side and then next chapter you change perspective. Very well written. Lots of facts and figures and dates which kinda blinded me ( being relatively new to all this) a bit... but i recommend it to anyone interested in learning more. It also led onto very interesting conversations with people I work beside when they asked me what my book was about. My dresser kept asking- so , what is happening now... has such and such happened yet... etc etc so I got to hear a lot of the story from an egyptian perspective too.

'Midnight Tales' by Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi is a very good read for anyone who enjoys reading blogs and is interested in arab culture and tradtions. It also tells the background to the war in Lebanon from the side of someone growing up there but not from there. The author is a dancer, which is why I picked up the book, and part of it is set in Egypt. But interestingly enough there is really no mention of dance- just huge chunks of social and cultural insights, easily packaged and very easy to read, which can only add to my overall cultural awareness and thus improve my undertanding of music and dance which comes from this culture! I say its good for anyone who reads blogs because I felt it could have been a blog. Each chapter was like a separate 'blog entry' although of course the book calls them 'essays'. I have read books by her before and I like the simple style in which they are written. I recommend it.

I am currently reading another book which is stories from Egyptian Taxi drivers...........'Taxi' by Khaled Al Khamissi. I STRONGLY recommend this one , even though I have only just started reading it this morning. It is very interesting for anyone who has had (or intends on having!) any experience within these crazy black and white rollercoaster carts. Very illuminating and was seemingly very popular when it was 1st released in arabic here in Cairo. Stories which help you understand why taxi drivers are the way they are!

1 comment:

Severina said...

Thanks for this post. I am always looking for bellydance/Middle East related reading. Off to the bookstore!