(first published in the UK as Night
of the Mi'raj
) is as much a riveting mystery as it is an
absorbing profile of the conflict between the traditional
and the modern in Saudi Arabian/Islamic culture. The latter
is deftly carried out in the characterizations of desert
guide Nayir al-Sharqi, assistant medical examiner Katya
Hijazi and, by proxy, murder victim Nouf Ash-Shrawi.
Nouf is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy and
powerful Saudi family. Is there any other kind, you ask?
Well, it turns out there is and therein lies the appeal of
this story. Ferraris shows us that not only are there
non-wealthy Arabs but there are other ways of viewing their
rigid (by Western standards) lifestyle and the strict rules
governing inter-gender relationships. When...
Beyond the Book
Once the undisputed masters of the desert,
Bedouin tribes have diminished over the last couple of
centuries mostly due to governments intent on taxation and
political control to become only about 10% of today's
Saudi population. They are still a distinct sect and
although Nayir al-Sharqi is not a Bedouin by blood he has
been raised as one which sets him apart from urban Arabs in
several ways. First and foremost, he knows his way around
the desert while his urban friends (whose ancestors were
likely Bedouins) would never think of leaving home without
Bedouins (from the Arabic word bedu, meaning inhabitants of
the desert) have controlled the desert trade routes...