Guests of the Sheik

Guests of the Sheik
An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
Date published: 1989
First published: 1968
Pages: 368
Sets: 1
Total copies: 15


A delightful, extremely well-written, and vastly informative ethnographic study, Guests of the Sheik is an account of the author’s two-year stay in the tiny rural village of El Nahra in southern Iraq. To help her anthropologist husband gather data, Mrs. Fernea agreed to dress only in the all-enveloping black veils of the women of the Middle East and to lead the sheltered life of the women of the harem. Although she shared a small mud-brick cottage with her husband, her daily life was only with the women of the town, for in this polygamous society there existed no social communication between the sexes. The hardships were many but the rewards greater, especially for the readers of the extraordinary narrative: this volume gives a unique insight into a part of Middle Eastern life seldom seen by the West—a life of the women who have no outwardly apparent role in society, but whose thoughts and ideas are now emerging with force and helping to shape modern Middle Eastern society.