Book depicts history of Arab women

January 16, 2013 - 4:41:31 am

H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser speaking with the editor, Dr Amira El Azhary Sonbol, and two of the contributors to Gulf Women, during its launch.

By Isabel Ovalle

DOHA: The book Gulf Women, with foreword by H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and edited by Professor Amira El Azhary Sonbol, was launched yesterday at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q). Sheikha Moza attended the launch ceremony.

The volume, published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation, is a collection of essays written by 12 academics detailing the history of Arab women, aimed at countering misconceptions about women in the region.

El Azhary, Professor at Georgetown University, and fellow contributors, Dr Moneera Al Ghadeer and Amira El Zein, talked about the chapters, which address symbolic representations of the Arabian Peninsula by discussing feminine poetry, and songs and literature by analysing how they were reflected through class and gender. 

The editor referred to the systematic research the authors had to do to find new sources in various countries like Yemen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United States. “We found records in numerous countries and left no stone unturned,” she added.

Gulf Women is the result of three years of work that began with an idea from Sheikha Moza who, said the editor, “was an inspiration for all of us”. During this time the contributors met approximately every three months to evaluate what had been done so far.

“We succeeded, thanks to a stellar team, and tried to keep away from existing conceptions to make the context speak for itself,” said Dr El Azhary. “The most difficult thing was finding sources, because we were looking for traditional ones. Ultimately, we tried to understand the Gulf within itself,” she added.

El Azhary referred to the lack of female presence in genealogy, despite the fact that families in the Arab world were named after the father and the mother. She said that this circumstance is only due to the use of Western paradigms to simplify family trees.

For Al Ghadeer, this book was an opportunity to “create a new speech about women in the Gulf and dismantle the colossal cliches that surround them.”

Amira El Zein, who wrote the chapter ‘Love Discourse in Hijazi Society Under the Umayyads: A Study in Class and Gender,’ said: “I was delighted to contribute to this major scholarly book, the first of its kind, and to be part of recording the rich historical legacy of the region.”

The book focuses on diverse topics such as tribalism, love discourse, women and the economy, education and religious activities, the family in the Arabian Peninsula and in Gulf History, and gender rights, among others. Gulf Women is now available in stores across Qatar and retails for QR100.

The Peninsula