Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for Identity in Saudi Arabia

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9781845118242: Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for Identity in Saudi Arabia

"A vivid and vibrant picture of Hijazi society and its transformations in the twentieth century, from intimate domestic culture to public performance and political ritual. A particular insight into female society and its active culture." - Sami Zubaida, Professor of Sociology at Birkbeck College, University of London; "Mai Yamani is consistently the sharpest observer of modern Saudi Arabia and paints a vivid picture of the cauldron of political and religious divisions that are tearing it apart. This is a major contribution to the study of Arab diversity - at a time when the West urgently needs to understand it." - Tim Sebastian, BBC "Hard Talk"; "An invaluable contribution to the social and political history of a hitherto largely unknown, ignored and unrecognized people. An irrefutably powerful argument for the preservation of cultural identity, respect for human dignity and a celebration of our human diversity." - HRH Prince Hassan of Jordan

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Is Saudi Arabia really a homogeneous Wahhabi dominated state? In 1932 the Al Saud family incorporated the kingdom of Hijaz, once the cultural hub of the Arabian world, in to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The urban, cosmopolitan Hijazis were absorbed in to a new state whose codes of behavior and rules were determined by the Najdis, an ascetic desert people, from whom the Al Saud family came. But the Saudi rulers failed to fully integrate the Hijaz, which retains a distinctive identity to this day. In "Cradle of Islam", the product of years spent in Mecca, Medina, Jeddah and Taif, Mai Yamani traces the fortunes of the distinctive and resilient culture of the Hijazis, from the golden age of Hashemite Mecca to Saudi domination to its current resurgence. The Hijazis today emphasise their regional heritage in religious ritual, food, dress and language as a response to the 'Najdification' of everyday life. The Hijazi experience shows the vitality of cultural diversity in the face of political repression in the Arab world.

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