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Refreshingly unique must read on the Middle East
MacFarquhar's book manages to both educate and entertain, and is a must read for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the Middle East. For those readers who have not yet explored the Middle East, the author's personal anecdotes provide an excellent and easy to understand overview of the wonderfully complex, contradictory, and often exasperating politics and personalities in the region. Readers who have traveled extensively in the Middle East will appreciate the author's deep knowledge and understanding of the region, and will likely be a bit envious of his access to such colorful characters. Whether you are an armchair traveler or have first-hand experience in the Middle East, you will certainly leave with an even deeper understanding of a region that is all too often presented as a black and white issue in Western media. (The chapter on Fatwas was probably my favorite - I have spent many a day hanging out with locals in various M.E. countries, and I cannot believe I have yet to have a conversation about this with anyone!)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 2, 2009
Unusually readable, informative and fun book on the subject.
What's this book? Imagine you have an uncle or a brother who lived , worked and travelled in the Arab world for years and just came home. You invite him over and your family wants to hear his stories. Well, the author would be the best of such uncles. He deeply knows the region, but this is not what he knows, but how he tells it. The chapters of the book are based on the everyday impressions and encounters. It is not a research, not a thesis to prove some theory or another, and not a lecture on Middle East's history, politics, religion, peoples, culture etc - and yet at the same time the book teaches you more about all of the above then dozens of pundits . I closely followed the news of M.E. for many years, and discovered in it huge layers of most obvious knowledge I had no idea about. I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). This one is definitely BK .Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2009
Lifting The Curtains
Let's face it: most Americans know almost nothing about the Arab World. Now, here is a great chance to learn! Clearly determined to present a comprehensive picture of the region in the past 40 years leading up to its challenges today, MacFarquhar goes behind the curtains and gives readers a dual lesson of history and politics, country by country.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The book is an enlightening and profound journey of the soul, combined with a factual read, full of information on the region's real players, and real people, that won't be found in the American news media. At the same time, the book is very affirming and full of passion the author feels for the region. After all, MacFarquhar's experiences are first hand. It is a must read for anybody who wants to learn about the world we live in.
Excellent 'insider' view of the Middle East and North Africa
An interesting and insightful view of the region from an American who grew up there. McFarquhar's ability and willingness to speak to high ranking government officials and the leaders of the various opposition groups makes for an extremely broad yet in-depth examination of the problems facing one of the most complex and volatile areas of the world. A great read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 6, 2009
A different look at the Arab World. Troubled? Yes. Hopeless? No.
Heading to the Middle East? Taking a job there? Just interested in understanding more about the Arab world? If so, you should read this book. This is not a heavy, abstract academic piece written from afar. Instead, the author takes a thoughtful look at several countries and examines the cultural, political and religious influences that shape the everyday. The reader gets a more nuanced sense of why some of these countries are troubled and just what some of the forces are that are boiling away under the surface. Fatwas are de-mystified (who knew they are not all bad?) and the role of clerics is explained more fully. Why new education initiatives in Saudi Arabia (and they have the money to do it) are seen as a promising solution to some of its problems. The writer talks about brave individuals in several countries - many that are devout Muslims - who have stood against the more xenophobic strains of Islam or the stranglehold of uninclusive, untransparent government. What emerges is a running commentary on the internal tug-of-war going on in much of Middle East - in government and in religion. I particularly appreciated the feeling that I was starting to see faces and personalities of the Middle East, rather than just the typical headlines. Well written and easy to understand, the author includes his insights and much of his experience from his career there on the ground, inspired from a childhood spent in Libya. If you have an interest in this part of the world and its people, this book has some very current perspectives. Thoroughly worth your time and money.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 29, 2009
A refreshing perspective
Neil Mac Farquhar has accomplished a great deal with this book by providing a fresh perspective on the Middle East, its peoples and their governments. Having grown up in Libya as a child of an ex-pat Neil learned Arabic and has a deep understanding and appreciation of the culture as well as what's implied when a colloquial expression is used. Being an Arab American myself, I found Neil translations quite accurate. His ability to point out how little we understand about the Arabs as people and how they differ from their governments is spot on. In many parts of his book, I laughed out laud in reading how bizarre are some of the idiotic ideas sold to the people. I have learned a great deal from his book about the Middle East, particularly about Egypt, Morocco and Libya. The level of sophistication used by Hizboallah in counteracting the US efforts is under appreciated by our government, as evident by the missed opportunities with Al-Jazeera TV and how the U.S. countered by launching Al-Hurra; which few pay any attention to. Clearly we've missed the mark. Neil points out how and where simply, effectively and clearly. You need to explore it for yourself and arrive at your own conclusion. I might suggest a different order to reading this book. Start with the first chapter, then proceed to the epilogue, then return and read the rest of the book in order. By the time you get to the epilogue again you would have had a deeper understanding of the three points Neil makes. How we, the U.S., can and should better deal with the Middle East. How our policies too often focus on expediency and short term goals, rather than lead to a long term solution, namely education, economic opportunities and consistency of message, i.e. we need to walk the talk not just talk the talk.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2009
Posted June 9, 2009
There is hope and MacFarquhar shows it here
The author does a great job in covering the intricacies and prevailing outlook of the current Middle East, and offers some rather simple solutions for those within the region and outside of it to understand and appreciate what really is taking place within the civil societies of many of the countries within the region that will provide hope, stability and mutual respect. This book is unique in its coverage of the Middle East region in that it does not focus purely on a couple of countries within it and suggest that what is going on within these select countries is what is going on throughout the region. This book also is not shy about detailing the civil abuses that some of our friends in the region display on their own citizens in the name of preserving national security.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The bottom line is that MacFarquhar is able to show that there is hope seeping througout this region and what better time than now to take advantage and address the change and civil rights that every person in this unique region deserves.
Posted June 5, 2009
Read This Book Now
Neil MacFarquhar has done something very rare here: he has given us a fresh view on the Middle East that is at once entertaining, based on long personal experience AND well-researched. That a book with "Hizbollah" in the title can make you laugh is an achievement in itself--but this book will make you reassess your views on what is going on in this key part of the world without making you feel that you are being beaten up or forced to take "sides" in a war that never ends. Rather, your eyes will be opened as to how the world is viewed from the Middle East.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The excellent reviews the book has received will tell you about the wonderful character sketches he draws from across the region. What I can tell you is that this is the book I am buying to give to my friends. After Obama's speech in Cairo, reading this book is a must...and a treat.
Posted December 5, 2010
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Posted December 20, 2013
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Posted June 6, 2011
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