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Sandstorms: Days and Nights in Arabia Paperback – August 17, 1991

3.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Peter Theroux's fascination with the Arab culture goes back to his student days, when he won a fellowship to study in Cairo. Drawn initially to the Middle East by the West's romantic notions of it, Theroux stayed on, learning the language and eventually reporting on the region from his base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In Sandstorms he debunks some of the West's most cherished myths about the Arab world, at the same time putting a human face on a region long misunderstood.

As Theroux mentions in his preface, much of his time in the Middle East was spent researching the 1978 disappearance of a Lebanese imam, Moussa Sadr. By the end of Sandstorms, Theroux has still not solved the riddle, but he has painted a remarkable portrait of the times, the people, and the politics of that volatile region.

From Library Journal

Theroux recounts his experiences in the Middle East of the 1980s. The author went to Egypt to teach English and wound up chronicling the disappearance of Lebanon's Shia Iman Moussa Sadr. But Sandstorms is the human side of an American in Arabia: swapping dirty jokes, drinking till all hours in dirty cafes, reading Saudi literature to try to touch the Arabian soul, looking back at American literature with loathing after reading Uris's The Haj, wending his way to the Damascus airport through a massive jam of manic Syrian drivers--and hoping the traffic would last. Theroux's Arabia is rough but undeniably real, poignant and elemental. Those who have lived in the Middle East for a time will hear echoes of their sojourn, and those who want to know what it's like will learn from Sandstorms. Strongly recommended for most libraries. For another view of the same area, see Chrisopher Dickey's Expats: Travels in Arabia, from Tripoli to Tehran, reviewed in this issue, above.--Ed.
-David P. Snider, Casa Grande P . L . , Ariz.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393307972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393307979
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,096,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Theroux has a particularly valuable vantage point: he has spent more that 7 years in this region as a journalist. In this book which serves as a memoir,
Theroux splendidly tells of this little understood region and its people. In an age when we hear of nothing but the fanaticism of this race
of people and their intense religiosity, Theroux, I feel, manages to bridge the gap and bring a sense of humanism into his observations.
Theroux systematically and humourously deconstructs our hostile stereotypes of Arabs and casts them in a light that is
much more realistic and much more interesting to read. Throughout this book, which reads very smoothly and very effectively, he shows us the cultural and social elements of Arab life that few of us have bothered to considered. And, through this, one is able to understand the percieved fanaticism of the Arabs in a more appreciable way. I found that his obervations were, while precise, still very evocative. I wonder if being a journalist is particularly suited to this style of
imagery.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Theroux offers here an understanding of the Arab mindset not to be gleaned from any other book. In particular, of course we all know from Freud that we're all obsessed with sex. But the double standard in Arab culture was truly amazing as revealed throughout the book, particularly in the passage where an Arab, in the most vulgar terms, talks to Theroux about procuring foreign women. And, Theroux, finally fed up with his harangue tells the Arab man he has just the kind of women the women he wants....and they are Arab. The man never spoke to Theroux again.-The best part of the book is in Chapter 9 where he parodies ignorant visiting reporters' accounts of Saudi Arabia as if an Arab had come to report on New York City: I'll just quote a few lines from it "Lucy Ricardo might not recognize New York today....Business fluorishes with the intersection of Broadway("broad" signifying impure woman).(and 42nd) This district is known as Times Square, after the Jewish-owned New York Times newspaper. A few blocks away in Fifth Avenue ("fifth" is a measure of whiskey)...The officials....like many Americans whose intellectual capacity has been diminished by a diet of pork and alcohol....were sluggish and incurious when asked why a five cent piece is bigger than a ten cent piece:"-That's drollery at its best, Peter. The reason I'm only giving the book four stars is that it seems to me that Theroux can't decide whether he's reporting or writing a personal journal. He's obviously doing both. But this combination leads to some awkward transitions and not too swell writing at times. Personally, I think he should stick exclusively to the autobiographical. It's much more interesting and, in the end, tells us much more about the author AND about Saudi Arabia than mere reporting.
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By A Customer on July 9, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is entertaining, and also offers a different perspective about the political climate in the Middle East. It was written when the Iran/Iraq war was the big issue, before Desert Storm in 1991. Interesting to see that the Saudi attitudes toward the US haven't changed much, and a read of this book should serve to describe culture in a long-term perspective. Highly recommended for anyone that wishes to learn a little more about the differences in our modern cultures.
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Format: Paperback
Written and published after the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and before the Gulf Wars that followed, Peter Theroux's book about working as a journalist in the Middle East seems at first a little dated, but eventually its point of view assumes a kind of currency. The political alliances of Arab and nonArab nations in the Middle East are, in his telling, like constantly shifting sands, and appearances are forever deceiving. In one form or another the past is all present anyway. Eventually, any point in time is nearly as good as any other. Or so it seems in this entertaining, informative, and sometimes confusing book.

What Theroux sets out to do is to shatter every easy Western assumption about life and history in the Middle East. With something of his brother Paul's eye for the incongruous, he tends to dwell on contradictions, ironies, and hypocrisies, and just about no one escapes being revealed as an unreliable narrator of the stories they have to tell. Most revealing in this regard is his account of working as a journalist in Saudi Arabia, a monarchy awash in oil wealth and a brand of radically conservative Islam. From this vantage point, we see the rivalries, prejudices, and grievances that characterize the Saudi view of other Middle Eastern nations. The Israelis, we begin to see, are only at the end of a sliding scale of animosity directed at everybody else in the region, including surprisingly the Palestinians. Change location to another country, as Theroux visits Cairo, then Jerusalem, then Damascus, and the perspectives are all altered again. Altogether, the book is like trying to view the Middle East through a kaleidoscope.
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