‘Sex and the Citadel’ – an intimate peek into the sex lives of Arabs by first-time author

Posted: August 4, 2013 in Books in general, Morcan Books & Films

Activist-writer Shereen El Feki’s first book, Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, provides an intriguing insight into the customs, laws, attitudes, history and sex lives of the citizens of six Arab countries.

TED reports: Ms El Feki has spent years traveling throughout the Arab region to listen to people’s stories about sex. Stemming from her own work as an HIV/AIDS researcher and activist, the project has been a way for her to reconnect with her own background. Half Egyptian, she grew up in Canada, and she wanted to better understand her own origins. As she adds, “if you really want to know a people you start by looking inside their bedrooms.”

Author Shereen El Feki

In Truthdig.com this week, book reviewer Tracy Quan says, “Family flashbacks are the most surprising (and delicious) revelations in El Feki’s book.”

Excerpts from her review follow:

When Shereen El Feki’s father was a 9-year-old boy in Cairo, he would sneak onto a tram that ran through the city’s official brothel quarter. Clinging to the side to catch “a boy’s-eye view of the action on Clot Bey Street,” he saw change overtake a historic red-light district. The closing of those licensed bordellos as he came of age would be part of a much longer story about hypocrisy and political power in Egypt…

…Raised in Canada by a Welsh mom and Egyptian dad, she’s a cosmopolitan enigma, dividing her time between Cairo and the Kensington district of London (“conveniently close to Heathrow”). When I caught up with her on Skype, during a hectic book tour, she spoke about the soft power associated with her father’s birthplace.

“If we could get a more open discussion around sexuality in Egyptian media, and get some of these themes into a few Ramadan soap operas, that would have huge impact,” she said. “Get something to work in Egypt, and you have a better chance transferring this to countries in the Gulf, like Qatar and UAE. Or even Jordan.”

Chapters on “summer marriage” (an Islam-approved way to profit from sex without breaking the law), modern hymen repair (a steady gig for doctors) and gender bending might make you feel like an armchair Orientalist. Hetero girls dressed as boys, with painted lips, drawing moustaches on their faces in ninth century Baghdad? These early Islamic hipsters, known as ghulamiyyat during the Abbasid caliphate, would confound the uptight Kuwaitis who six years ago passed a law against “imitating the opposite sex in any way.”

For the full review go to: http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/sex_and_the_citadel_20130801//



  1. katepapas says:

    It’s always interesting to learn about different cultures and mentalities. I presume that this must be a great book.

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