This year has been special as we witnessed various spiritual holidays happening all at once, and with them different traditions. One special tradition is eating feseekh and renga (fermented fish), you know the meal you eat after you’re officially done with fasting, that makes your mind and your stomach all swirly from the salt intake; you feel like you cannot focus on anything. As for Eid holiday, you collect your eidayah (money gathered on eid) and while you might be unsure what to spend this year’s eidayah on, I am here to tell you that books remain your best option. Books are the ultimate escape, they take you everywhere you want to go; fictional and nonfictional with a flip of a page. At a very economical price. So here are six suggestions for your Eid reading binge-list that will get you traveling around the middle east, from your couch.
Egypt – Naguib Mahfouz’s “The Cairo Trilogy”
You cannot talk about Egypt without talking about the legend Naguib Mahfouz; they’re practically synonymous. Mahfouz’s work painted Egypt’s heart and soul quite vividly to anyone who’s never been before and for those that are Egyptian, well they rediscovered and fell in love with their country through his magical prose. “The Cairo Trilogy” is the perfect series to read during Eid as it takes you on this family saga, told during Egypt’s occupation by the British forces. A spellbinding journey.
Palestine – Etaf Rum’s “A Woman Is No Man”
Rum’s 2019 debut novel, “A Woman Is No Man” reads like her seventh book. In this fiction novel, we follow a Palestinian-American teenager who is forced by her parents to start meeting suitors for marriage. In this journey, we track Deya as she embarks on this turbulent discovery of learning who she is within her community across the backdrop of New York. A historical novel that is quite the page-turner, full of raw and truthful sentences that are guaranteed to hold your attention this Eid.
Iran – Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”
An unconventional tale to say the least. Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” told in a graphic novel format is the ideal literature for those wanting to pick up something this holiday but haven’t read in a while and maybe feel a bit daunted at the thought of getting back in the process of reading. This piece of work is not only gripping, an autobiographical story that traces a girl growing up in Iran but it is also backed up with stunning visuals that are bound to keep you interested just as much as they will break your heart.
Sudan – Leila Aboulela’s “Elsewhere, Home”
Aboulela’s short story collection, “Elsewhere, Home” is made up of 13 thought-provoking and heartwrenching chronicles of Sudanese women that embark on different journeys across Sudan; filled with rich commentary on culture, conflicts and reflections, the Egyptian-Sudanese author, Aboulela paints a raw and moving image of what it feels like to live in Sudan in addition to stepping away from that culture. The short story format will sure have you flipping one page after the other.
Saudi Arabia – Zeba Talkhani’s “My Past Is A Foreign Country”
“My Past Is A Foreign Country: A Muslim Feminist Finds Herself” is Talkhani’s autobiographical experience of growing up in Saudi surrounded by patriarchal restrictions and how that has influenced her upbringing and decisions until she’s moved abroad. The writing style is rich, candid, and unique. An unputdownable Eid read for sure.
Turkey – Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
While the obvious choice for a Shafak read might be “The Forty Rules Of Love” as it is quite entrancing with its language and historical elements but a more recent read that is underappreciated and is fitting more for summer vibes is “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.” This gripping roller coaster will get you flipping pages like there is no tomorrow. A historical, suspense that follows the tale of a sex worker who has died and recalls her life from the moment she was born until the second she was murdered and her body dumped in a bin. In typical Shafak magical prose, this novel will keep you turning wanting to know more about this character and everything related to her.
There you have it, six binge-worthy novels that will get you back into reading and traveling around the magical Middle East.
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