Introduction: Guests of Sheik and Its Cultural Significance
Despite the numerous attempts to bridge the two cultures together, the philosophy of the Asian world remains alien to Europe and the United States, and vice versa. A recent endeavor of Elizabeth Warnock-Fehrea to marry the two cultures, however, maybe the foot forward that the two opponents have been waiting for to finally reconcile. In her book Guests of the Sheik, Warnock-Fehrea describes her life in the Muslim setting.
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Though the author of the novel focuses on the description of everyday life in Iraq, the novel makes a very strong statement about the key socio-cultural issues that the state is currently undergoing due to the urbanization and globalization process, particularly, the image of a woman in the Iraqi culture.
Guests of Sheik in a Nutshell: What the Novel Is about
As it has been stressed above, the novel has very little of a plot and mostly contains descriptive passages that make the reader dwell on the subject of the Asian culture, women’s place in it, and the urbanization process, which seems to have been slackened by the supremacy of the Asian traditions in the rural areas of the state. The book, therefore, represents a blend between Warnock-Fehrea’s personal diary and traveler’s notes. The anthropologist tells about her life in the heart of El Nahra and describes the cultural and social differences between the Western and the Eastern worlds. Starting with the difference in clothing (Warnock-Fehrea had to change her clothes to abaya: “Trying to be as dignified as possible with two menservants, Hamza and his teenage son standing by googling, I took off my abaya” (Warnock-Fehrea, 2000, p. 87)) up to the process of learning the Arabian language, the book provides a subtle social commentary on the strength of the Asian traditions and the difference between the Eastern and the Western philosophies.
Women in the Arabic World: The Ultimate Power of a Different Kind
One of the book’s most obvious advantages is that it busts the traditional myth about women being discriminated against in the Muslim culture. True, the author acknowledges that it took her time to get used to the image of a woman that the Islamic culture has created; however, Warnock-Fehrea makes it obvious that there is not a single derogatory detail about it. Quite on the contrary, a woman in the Asian culture is considered the epitome of purity and beauty: “It is better for a woman if she does not smoke” (Warnock-Fehrea, 2000, p. 97). Therefore, in Asian culture, women derive power from family traditions and their image as nurturers. The security of women, in their turn, comes from being law-abiding, obedient, and respectful to the traditions of the community.
In other words, Warnock-Fehrea busts the myth concerning the Arabic women being intimidated and unhappy. Instead, the author makes it obvious that the Arabic women are perfectly satisfied with the roles and responsibilities that society assigns them; moreover, these women seem to take pride in their role in the community, considering it as their major contribution to the prosperity of the nation and the development of the Arabic culture.
Summary: Warnock-Fehrea’s Key Argument
Warnock-Fehrea proves that, though obviously needed, the changes that the western world imposes on Asia may have an adverse effect on the Arabic culture. Despite the common myth about Asian women being oppressed, most women in Arabic states are satisfied with their lives and do not want their lives to be changed drastically. A new way of looking at the Islamic culture, Warnock-Fehrea’s novel definitely changes the current perspective of Asia and the role of women in Asian society.
Fehrea, E. W. (2000). Guests of the Sheik: An ethnography of an Iraqi village. New York City, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group.