A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

books around the world, one flight at a time (iii)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 23, 2007

Today seems like a good day to stay inside. Not to be indelicate, but when I cough or require a tissue, I see visible evidence of the morning’s air quality, though the skies outside my window remain clear and bright.

As I write, the muezzin at my neighborhood (Sunni) mosque is giving the call to prayer. He has a particularly beautiful voice, and today he has decided to add a number of vocal flourishes to the shahada (leaving the Allahu akbar a straight call). I have heard him do this before, and the effect is breath-taking.

I love this mosque anyway, because it is small but lovely, a newly built edifice next to a late Ottoman facade shot to bits by the civil war. The two share a sweetly poignant, if pointed, banner hanging in front of the latter, which says:

As we remained with the resistance during the days of the Israeli aggressions,

So we will remain with the government and its president, Fouad Siniora, during the period of the rebuilding.

The parallel structure (kama bqaina m3a al-muqawama … sanabqa m3a al-7hukuma wa ra2siha Fu2ad Saniyora) makes it even lovelier in Arabic – and, for emphasis, the words “resistance” and “Fouad Siniora” are written in red.

I will put in a photograph later, but I fear that going out with a camera now might vex the Interior Ministry’s gendarmerie.

Back to books …

After reading de Bellaigue’s In The Rose Garden of the Martyrs, I decided to continue the theme by reading another, rather different book on pre- to post- revolutionary Iran: Farah Pahlavi’s An Enduring Love: My Life With the Shah.


I know – who reads this stuff? I do – and not because it is all a bunch of fluff.

Enduring Love, like Queen Noor’s Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, was written by a smart woman. Farah’s self-control and her ability to stay “on message” are evident throughout the book – even in her unfortunate defense of SAVAK as a well-intentioned but perhaps ‘over-eager’ institution.

What interests me about books like this is how the men whose public roles defined these ‘women in black’, to borrow a phrase used here to describe Lebanon’s women in Parliament (all of whom entered politics as the wife, sister, or daughter of a dead politician) could inspire such loyalty in them.

Farah’s life was so deeply invested in the shah – whether she believed his reign was as uniformly progressive as she presents it, to challenge this view would mean challenging the value of the course of her own life, as well as the legacy she and her husband have given their children. Hence she is a very careful writer, leaving no loose ends, and no hook for anti-shah or pro-Islamic Republic readers to seize upon.

And she is a good writer. The stories she tells of her childhood are as engaging as the sad tale she tells of the shah’s last days, reviled and refused entry by country after country. In short, a perfect airplane book, if you can bear the smirks you imagine on the faces of your fellow travelers.


3 Responses to “books around the world, one flight at a time (iii)”

  1. intlxpatr said

    The cover doesn’t come off? And really, who cares about those smirks? I’ve learned amazing things from the most trivial books. . . this one doesn’t sound trivial at all, but the memories from a point in time that is gone forever. Worth a read.

  2. […] books around the world, one flight at a time (iii) […]

  3. […] had meant to photograph the banner I mentioned in my last books around the world post, but first thought: oh, I’ll just start with a few shots of my favorite […]

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