Sex and the Citadel

Intimate Life in A Changing Arab World

El-Feki, Shereen

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Sex and the Citadel
** Kirkus Best Books of the Year (2013)** If you really want to know a people, start by looking inside their bedrooms. As political change sweeps the streets and squares, the parliaments and presidential palaces of the Arab world, Shereen El Feki has been looking at an upheaval a little closer to home--in the sexual lives of men and women in Egypt and across the region. The result is an informative, insightful, and engaging account of a highly sensitive and still largely secret aspect of Arab society. Sex is entwined in religion, tradition, politics, economics, and culture, so it is the perfect lens through which to examine the complex social landscape of the Arab world. From pregnant virgins to desperate housewives, from fearless activists to religious firebrands, from sex work to same-sex relations, Sex and the Citadel takes a fresh look at the sexual history of the region and brings new voices to the debate over its future. This is no peep show or academic treatise but a highly personal and often humorous account of one woman's journey to better understand Arab society at its most intimate and, in the process, to better understand her own origins. Rich with five years of groundbreaking research, Sex and the Citadel gives us a unique and timely understanding of everyday lives in a part of the world that is changing before our eyes.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2013.
ISBN: 9780307377395
Characteristics: xxi, 345 p. ;,25 cm.


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Jan 24, 2014
  • ChocolateChips rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

An in-depth look at sexuality in the Arab world, though the book primarily focuses on Egypt. This is definitely a book that needed to be written; there are so many misunderstandings about the Arab world on the part of Westerners and Arabs themselves that anyone stands to learn a few things by reading this book.

Apr 26, 2013
  • Vilka rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Offers an interesting view into some of the attitudes, traditions and difficulties in relations (not only sexual) between men and women in the Arab world (though concentrating on Egypt), and how these relate to the greater social changes being attempted in recent years. It does get a bit annoying sometimes how the author seems to attribute all social activity and political change directly to sex, but then again, we've also heard physicists saying everything boils down to physics, economists say everything boils down to money, etc, so you can shrug that off. Some individuals presented as marvellous beacons for change seemed to me more like outliers on the far extreme of the issue, but there were plenty of ordinary people in the middle ground to balance that out. Overall an interesting look into private life that touches on issues like marriage and divorce, reproductive difficulties, contraception, female circumcision, gender equality (or lack thereof), and the changes in social standards between generations--for example, how did customs of dress and social behaviour became so conservative in recent years compared to the younger days of modern Egyptian adults' grandparents? A decent and not-too-heavy read.


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