Changing Bedouin Life as Exemplified by the Al-Maria Family: Background information when reading The Girl Who Fell to Earth

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Girl Who Fell to Earth

A Memoir

by Sophia Al-Maria

The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Nov 2012, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Changing Bedouin Life as Exemplified by the Al-Maria Family

Print Review

Bedouin life has been slowly changing from a traditional nomadic existence to a more settled permanent one. Al-Maria's family effectively illustrates this transition.

Al-Maria adjusts to her Bedouin family's ancient way of life precisely at the same time that its members must adjust to modernity. The family had been experiencing what Al-Maria describes as "a long, slow retreat into the concrete domesticity of modern sedentary life." Not all is bad: "Compared with the poverty they were used to on their travels, not having to carry your weight in water was positively luxuriant."

But convenience has a price, paid largely by the women. The style of dress changed, for one thing. Bedouin girls in the family used to wear bright calico dresses without full-body veils. Where they used only to cover their faces they now covered their whole bodies in black, a new custom to protect their honor (and identities) now that they lived in closer proximity to neighbors with "forked tongues."

The Al-Dafira tribe, which Al-Maria's family belongs to, had a difficult time adapting to urban life. "In the '80s, governments of many Gulf countries had planned boroughs and filled them with relocated Bedouin. Parts of the Al-Dafira tribe had been crossing back and forth through the neck of the peninsula between Saudi and Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE for generations," she writes, "While the disorienting effects of industry and modernity dizzied the tribe, invisible lines were being drawn in the sand under their feet and on the papers they couldn't read. Sides of the border were taken and families were broken up. Each patriarch had to choose his nationality: Saudi or Qatari or Emirati?"

The city of Doha Her family eventually chose Qatar and the city of Doha, which is full of gleaming skyscrapers, hotels and malls. Despite the modern building, ancient rules govern the way the city's inhabitants live. Al-Maria explains that her cousins might not have been to the downtown area of Doha, but "had to serve as the go-betweens for their parents in the transition from the desert to the city, helping the older generation to fill out paperwork, fix electrical outlets, and learn to work a washing machine."

Interestingly enough, Doha itself has struggled to synthesize the old and the new: A New York Times article describes the disconnect residents of Doha feel within the gleaming modernity of their city: "Qataris number just 225,000 of a population of 1.8 million, and interaction between them and the rest feels as lifeless as the miles of plastic grass that line the boulevards . . . Qataris feel comfortable not at the Islamic Museum or Jean Nouvel's latest addition to the skyline, but rather in a majlis, one of the traditional segregated salons that stand as a fixture of social life."

Picture from Qatar embassy

Article by Jo Perry

This article is from the February 20, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    My Name Is Leon
    by Kit De Waal
    Kit de Waal's striking debut, My Name is Leon, has inspired this big, long, complicated question: ...
  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...
  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
News of the World by Paulette Jiles

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written--a story about sacrifice and motherhood.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I's A D Before D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.