Originally published in Beirut in 1984, this multipage epic brings to life many of the political issues that have plagued the Mideast for most of this century. Set in an unnamed gulf country that could be Jordan sometime in the 1930s, the novel relates what happens to the bedouin inhabitants of the small oasis community of Wadi al-Uyoun when oil is discovered by Americans. Seen through the eyes of a large and varied cast of bedouin characters, the upheaval caused by the American colonization is shown in various manifestations, from the first contact with the strange foreigners ("Their smell could kill birds!" observes Miteb al-Hathal, who later leads a rebellion of Arab workers when the village of Harran has been made into an American port city) to confused and suspicious descriptions of the sinister "magic" tools brought by the Americanswhich are in fact bulldozers, automobiles, radios and telephones. The story unfolds at a stately pace over a timespan of many years and provides an endless stream of characters and events, each connected to the next by many threads of plot. Theroux's sensitive translation conveys the subtleties of ambiguity and nuance inherent to the Arab language and culture. Banned in several Mideast countries including Saudi Arabia, this is the first volume of a planned trilogy by a Paris-based Jordanian novelist who holds a law degree from the Sorbonne and a Ph.D. in oil economics from the University of Belgrade. Despite the Lawrence of Arabia setting, Munif writes from a unique vantage point; English-language readers have been given few opportunities before now to look at this situation through native eyes.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Banned in several Middle Eastern countries, this novel records the encounter between Americans and Arabs in an unnamed Gulf emirate in the 1930s. As oil exploration begins, the destruction of an oasis community amounts to "a breaking off, like death, that nothing and no one could ever heal." The promise inherent in the creation of a city divided into Arab and American sectors provides the novel's most striking revelation: here not merely two cultures, but two ages, meetand stand apart. Alternatively amused and bewildered by the Americans and their technological novelties, the Arabs sense in their accommodation to modernity the betrayal of their own traditions. Highly recommended, if only for its cross-cultural insights.L.M. Lewis, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I like reading books that are banned. I figure if a government goes to all the hassle to be so self-righteously offended by the politics of a particular novel, perhaps there’s... Read morePublished 3 months ago by JD
This was an unusual, but rewarding, reading experience for me. Cities of Salt, published by a Saudi Arabian/Jordanian author in 1984, is a very foreign novel to an American reader. Read morePublished 7 months ago by E. Smiley
This is one of the first of many I read about Arabia, the Empty Quarter & Bedouins. It is an excellent book which I am rereading but the heavy hard cover is really painful. Read morePublished 12 months ago by The Purple Bee
It is somewhere by the sea, somewhere on the hajj caravan route, and it is ruled by a Sultan. At that time telephone and radio were commonplace in the cities, Beirut and Damascus,... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Brenda Teese
Abdelrahman Munif was a brilliant writer who told truths that many leaders in the region did not want known. Read morePublished 22 months ago by MEscholar
I realize the translator has been critical of reviews that suggest that this novel is about oil. Okay, so it is not about oil, but it is about an oil boom, particularly the impact... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Jeff Wade
I have read this book a few times and keep giving it away to friends. Not sure why it is banned in middle eastPublished on August 22, 2013 by Cindy L. Arshad
Cities of Salt ought to be a central text for anyone teaching Middle East Studies (or NAME) . it is dense, and quite long. Read morePublished on May 4, 2013 by J. Kelly-Moore