Stoning the Devil

The Gulf, its people and landscapes; Arab women's lives; Stoning the Devil, my novel-in-stories

Month: February, 2012

Gate in a Gulf Arab compound

Most Gulf Arabs live in villas behind high walls, for privacy–to keep prying eyes away from the women. Inside the compound there are usually two separate houses, one for the male members of the household, and another for the women. There is usually also a separate building for the kitchen. Servants, mostly female, from various poorer countries, keep all the buildings clean and do the cooking. Filipina servants are paid the most because they’re regarded as the best and cleanest. Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, and Indians are also common. In Stoning the Devil, Badria and Alia both live in compounds like this, which often have gaily painted gates like the one in the picture. The fronds of palm trees, for shade, thrust above them. Some younger people in the big cities prefer to live in apartments, but most locals live in the low-rise outskirts of the city in these big villas. Most are painted white, with flat or terra cotta roofs. They often look like big Mediterranean villas. This one is in Bureimi, right across the border from Al Ain, in Oman. I used to work at the national university (United Arab Emirates University) in Al Ain. It’s famous throughout the Arab world for its beautiful gardens, its trees and flower-filled medians.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Corniche in Muscat

Stoning the Devil, the title story/chapter of the book, is written in the form of a letter from a fifteen year-old Emirati girl, Badria, to her best friend and cousin, Alia. Badria is on the haj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, with her family. While there certain experiences remind her of another family trip to Muscat, the capital of Oman, which was traumatic for her. The title refers to the ritual in which pilgrims on the plain of Muzdalifah, outside Mecca, hurl stones at a jamra, which is a stone column representing Satan. Muslims believe that this purifies them–by stoning the devil, they destroy their own sinful thoughts and impulses. However, in this story the ritual does not go as planned…

Traditional dress. Badria, the protagonist of Stoning the Devil, wears a black abayah or cape like this one over her dress, and a shayla to cover her hair. The burqa is old-fashioned. Badria, aged fifteen, probably wears a sheer veil when she’s in public. Later, when she’s at the university, she won’t wear a veil at all, and she’ll start wearing closer-fitting, but still ankle-length, dresses and skirts.

About

This blog is for people interested in Stoning the Devil, my novel-in-stories, which will be published in August 2012 by Skylight Press. It is also for people interested in life in the Gulf. I will be posting news about the book – the publication date, blurbs, dates of launch parties, readings, interviews and so on – and also photographs which I took while living in the United Arab Emirates, which often correspond to settings for the stories. You’ll learn quite a bit about life in the region if you follow this blog.

Bedu women – in private

Bedu women’s dress, informal. This is how Badria and Alia are likely to dress when at home. This photo was taken on a Bedu camel farm near Medinat Zayed, in Abu Dhabi Emirate. It’s not far from the Liwa Oasis, on the edge of the Empty Quarter.