Guests of the Sheik

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Guests of the Sheik



Ciara Schultz

Out of all the many countries in the world, each one is unique and individualistic with many exclusive qualities to each one. Many times, the countries get compared to the Western civilization of the United States. The book Guests of the Sheik is just that, but more. An American woman, (Elizabeth Fernea) travels to a completely foreign land, not known at all to her and experiences the culture first hand. She is at first willing, since her husband, Bob, had no choice and his job permitted him to do so (in moving to a completely new country). We learn in the book, that not only is where she staying, completely different than America, but surprisingly, the Iraqi people are not ‘jealous’ or want her life, but more take pity on her for not having theirs. My paper will analyze and discuss ideas about satisfaction, security, authority, power, and autonomy for women in the El Eshadda tribal society of El Nahra. I will also touch on the different thing women derive their satisfaction, power, authority, and security in this very different world.

The 1965 ethnography, Guests of the Sheik, written by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea really captures what it is like to live and just be immersed into another culture. Though there is so many different cultures, there is no “right” culture. To say or think that your culture is the “right” culture would be taking an ethnocentric view. For so many people it is nearly impossible for them to accept the way other cultures operate, and the different expectations of the woman’s role in other countries compared to the lifestyle of what they might be used to. What may satisfy a typical American woman could quite possibly horrify a Shiite woman. Similar questions that could lead to cultural dispute may ask what makes a woman powerful, have authority, or feel secure. Cultures all over the world would have different answers. Which culture is right? In the ethnocentric view,...
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