Saudi Arabia and the Joy of Reading

library_of_congress_reading

I remember when we first arrived in Saudi and were staying with some family members.  I developed a routine of reading stories to the young children.  Even though not all of them understood English they enjoyed my stories.  I had a few books which contained many pictures and I would create entertaining stories around the pictures.  This also served as a means for me to expand what was then my limited Arabic as the children were always happy to inform me the appropriate Arabic word for any picture.  I slowly learned that my reading to these children was the first time they had ever been read to where someone would sit on the floor with them with the book up in the air, them snuggled around and we’d read.  They loved it.  One of the older children who was around eight years old asked if reading was normal in America.  I told the little girl that many children would get a bedtime story from either their mom or their dad each night.  I also told her about the American libraries which not only had so many books from which to choose but would have storytime hour and other special programs for the children.

Saudi Arabia does have libraries but they are rather limited.  The national library is the King Fahad National Library and the public library is the King Abdulaziz Public library.  The web site for the King Fahad National Library is in Arabic only.  However the King Abdulaziz Public library web site is in both English and Arabic.

Interestingly the King Abdulaziz Public library does offer a children’s reading club.  However unlike similar programs in the United States which are free of charge, one must pay fees in order for their child to participate.  The minimal fee is 300 SAR which is just under $100 which may be a little steep for some Saudi families.  On the other hand, the library has a ‘Kids Library’ section which sounds very nice according to the information on the web site in that it offers a selection of books, monthly and seasonal activities as well as theater corner, audiovisual and computer corner and artistic activities.

Like most other establishments in Saudi Arabia, the Public library is segregated with separate men and women’s sections.  Specifically, the library strives to disseminate knowledge and culture in Saudi society, concentrating on the Arabic and Islamic heritage and the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its founder King Abdulaziz.  It seeks to offer a high level of excellence in service in order to meet the expectations of its patrons, answer their needs and earn their satisfaction.

Goals of the Library

King Abdulaziz Public Library aims to achieve the following goals:

  1. Make available and organize all the different receptacles of information, such as books, journals, audiovisual materials and manuscripts in the various branches of knowledge.
  2. Concern for the collection and documentation of all forms of Arab as well as foreign intellectual output, including journals and research concerned with the history of King Abdulaziz and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in general.
  3. Dissemination of knowledge, culture and information, especially Arabic and Islamic, and attention to Arab and Islamic culture, as well as participation in its revival and renewal.
  4. Provide library services, translation and academic publishing in the area of the Arab and Islamic sciences in order to realize the development of academic research in the Kingdom.
  5. Support of the movement of writing, translation and academic publishing in the Arab and Islamic sciences, in order to develop academic publishing in the Kingdom.
  6. Participation in community service through organization of cultural and academic lectures and conferences, in addition to exhibitions and festivals, and participation in such events.
  7. Construction and documentation of Arab and foreign intellectual production in the area of horses and equestrian matters, in order to support specialized research and studies in this area.

The mission and goals of the library are worthy.  I cannot say how many Saudis actually spend much time at the library though on a regular basis.  In my own observations, many Saudis do not have the same interest in reading for the pure joy of reading.  I say many thinking of the whole country yet also knowing some Saudis who are avid readers.  I do believe however there should be more emphasis placed on reading and the joys of a good book.  Many children I have observed are much more interested in their gameboy, playing on the computer, watching tv or other activities rather than settling down with a good book.

On the other hand, many major institutions which employ expatriate workers and Western compounds will have their own private libraries.  The majority of books in these libraries will be in the English language and most of the books are used, having been donated.  If one wishes to find a current selection of English language books, rather than attempting to find them at a library, one would likely go instead to Jarir or Obeiken bookstores which are located throughout the Kingdom.

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68 Responses

  1. Nice topic! very informative. I noticed that in our society reading isn’t exactly up there with with, I can’t come up with anything( don’t you dare say shopping and restaurants LOL). I don’t remember ever being read to, interesting point..My mom did tell me stories that she had memorized, or made right on the spot to help me, her coward lil daughter fall asleep. My lil cousins had a book series of short stories. I am not sure if they were ever read to them, I know though that after reading the first five pages they’d be long asleep. If someone’s really interested in a story, do you think they could sleep without knowing the ending?

  2. As I love libraries, I love the picture of that exotic Saudi library.

    I wonder about literary traditions in different cultures. My American culture perhaps inherited the strong literary tradition of Great Britain.

    I spent time in Puerto Rico (although an American territory it is not particularly American). I kept looking for their important books and did find a few. I did not meet many people who read for pleasure but BOY HOWDY could they dance!!

    Do different cultures express a particular art or literary tradition more strongly? ie Great Britain may have great literature but they are not known for dancing!

  3. A lovely picture of the Library of Congress reading room. It inspires a visit! The King Abdulaziz Public Library has an admirable set of goals, and is similarly inspiring.

    Perhaps the historically low literacy rates in Saudi have contributed to the lack of a tradition of parental reading, as opposed to story telling, and of a demand for public libraries.

    1970–15% of men; 2% of women–the lowest in MENA except for Yemen.
    1990–73% of men; 48% of women–a very rapid increase but still rather low
    2007–83% overall–higher in youth age 15-24 (men 98%; women 96%).

    Ireland is the most literary country I have been to–a high quality bookshop on every corner (Dublin and Cork). Maybe all those monks and dreary winters account for the reading habits.

  4. Fascinating post, American Bedu. I had been wondering about this very thing – I am absolutely addicted to reading but have noticed that the majority of the Saudis I know will only read if absolutely necessary. I had wondered if there were long-standing cultural reasons for this, or if it were merely a quirk, lol. I personally cannot imagine never being read to by my mother, nor can I imagine not reading to any kids in my care – though I realize that there are also a great many people in my own culture – young and old – who do not view reading in the same positive light as I do.

    Again, fascinating post and great blog overall! :-)

  5. Having lived here so long I cant think of anyone who has ever discussed reading just for pleasure with me. Specifically when it comes to their children…or when they were children being read too. I do not like to be negative towards Arabs as some people might like to claim etc (I only relate my experiences…if they are negative why is that my fault?) anyhow…I have to say that reading for pleasure is not a hobby many Arabs take up…unless…they attend a nongovt type private school…something with a British or American style curriculum and therefore reading for pleasure is encouraged.

    Ive been to various libraries here in Bahrain and generally I see either lots of photocopying going on…or young kids running around getting out of the heat…no sitting and reading going on….and the books are generally in a diplorable condition. First clue when it comes to determining a persons love for books…or complete disregard.

    Ive personally rarely been in someones house in which they had books other than maybe hadith collections and the Quran…or school type books. Books for pleasure so to speak are rare (again…my experience). A friend of mine did surprise me and went out and bought a complete boxed set of childrens stories for her 5 year old. It has about 20 books covering all sorts of topics etc…the child is not allowed to touch them for fear she will tear them or color in them. A year later and they are still in pristine condition…but unread. An unread book is like an unlived life…a waste.

    You need to instill a love for reading…a love for books…holding them and feeling their texture and finding within the pages a certain release of the mind and contentment of the soul that is found in very few other places….you need to encourage that in the young while their still young and can form a lifelong habit that will serve them in ways a non reader will never know.

    Bahrain opened up Sheikh Isa’s (former Emir of Bahrain) library late last year…I havent found time to visit it but I hear its quite beautiful inside…its a massive building with a huge selection. I cant help but notice the fairly empty parkinglot whenever I drive by.

  6. @coolred38 – Your comments make me quite sad, but at the same time, they make perfect sense. I completely agree with everything you said about books and reading – indeed, I couldn’t have said it better.

    A child who is not exposed to reading for pleasure is being denied access to the world beyond their immediate reach – they are not encountering the “friends,” discoveries, nor wealth of information and understanding that could otherwise be available to them. It is through reading that we discover that no, we are not alone; or that yes, there is a world and ideas beyond that which we can readily touch and which is just waiting for us to go seeking. It makes me incredibly sad to think that some people are not even aware of all the experiences they are missing out on and of the limits they have placed upon themselves. That woman who bought books for her child and then disallowed the reading of them – now, that is just cruel. :-(

  7. I’ve noticed this, too, although it may be changing a little. We have tons of books, and my kids love reading (they don’t have Playstations and get limited time on the computer, and very litlle TV). I never had a problem finding English-language books for children, but 15 years ago, I couldn’t find any nice children’s books in Arabic. That’s changed, though; there are a lot of nice, colorful Arabic books now. The bookstores you mentioned seem to do a good business, but I think that Arab adults don’t read much fiction; Islamic and health-related topics seem popular.

  8. I heard somewhere that more books are translated into Greek every year than into Arabic. When you think that there are some 300 million Arabs and and a few dozen million Greek speakers this fact is discouraging.

    I love to read, I have done so since I was a child. Knowing what respect Arabs have for those who speak well, the lack of interest for the written word in Arabic society is one that always surprises me.

    I do not think this has always been the case. Libraries in the Middle East historic were legendary. It also used to be the case that the Middle East and wider Islamic world were the centers of scientific learning, something else which is no longer the case.

    The would be a nice dissertation or book for somebody to write.

  9. Very interesting work here, American Bedu!

    I find it interesting that there is lack of children’s book in the public libraries there in KSA. Personally, I think it is human nature to be drawn to books, especially children. The use of reading time enables a child to hone in on listening, sequencing and prediction skills. In general, the earlier one starts to listen to stories the better h/she will be able to sequence events, predict and ofcourse start to think critically.

    Perhaps some of the reasons KSA has a limit on childrens books are some of them contain images or story line that is consideribly inappropriate in KSA. ( But the books can be altered to to suit the culture)

    I think one should take steps there to start reading time for FREE with a carefully selected books.

  10. As an avid reader myself (always have at least one but sometimes 2 books going, must read before turning out the light before bed, and spend time on my deck with a drink and a book most evenings), I could not imagine not being interested in books and stories. I’m like the kid from the Neverending Story. However… both my younger sister and brother are not readers, they would rather watch TV (we are all adults but they’ve always been this way). My boyfriend’s daughter is also not a reader, she is 11. She too would rather watch tv or play video games. I have on occasion read a book to her, a chapter or 2 each night, the way my mother used to do when we were kids. Apparently, from what I understand, reading is not encouraged by many parents even here in the US as much as it used to be. I find that very very sad. I hope that Saudi will start to push reading more. In my opinion, there is nothing better than a good book.

  11. Given the historically low literacy rate one can understand why the tradition of reading to children simply never existed in Saudi Arabia. It is one practice from the West that they might copy. One of my happiest memories from my childhood is my mother reading stories to me. It is something that I have enjoyed doing with my nephews and nieces.

    Can anyone comment if there is a practice of Arab families reciting stories or poetry to their children?

  12. Jerry M–In my personal experience, and via my reading, yes there is a rich oral tradition of reciting stories, poetry, and teaching proverbs (often very rich local ones). A number of Arab intellectuals and writers have recounted how the stories they heard as a child, often from a grandmother, nourished their imaginations, cultivated their storytelling abilities, and inpired them (men and women) to aim for a high level of education and professional achievement. Poetry writing ( the most oral form of fiction) is more valued and more common than in the West, and even the local newspaper, as well as national ones, regularly publish readers’ submitted poetry.

  13. I love the LOC….studying in the main reading room (pictured) is such an amazing experience.

    The only downside is that there’s no internet (wireless or ethernet). :(

  14. I have always been disappointed and saddened by the lack of books in most Muslim countries. My relatives are always surprised at the number of books I bring with me when I visit.

  15. As a published author reading has always been a mainstay. Growing up I loved the Childcraft Encyclopedias my parents but us kids. Mom also read us the family bible and the Grimm’s fairytales (but in Spanish)….reading is so invaluable and I too read to my daughter when she was a tot because I enjoyed the expressions on her face as her imagination was at work. :^)

  16. This really cannot be attributed to illiteracy. I know many very educated Saudis who had to read a lot to get through higher education, yet they still read VERY little on a personal level.

    Generally speaking, in the West it is my experience that the more educated one is the more they’ll read and the more books they’ll have.

    My father used to say that you can tell a lot about someone when you visit their house and see how much reading material they have and what they are reading. I have found this to be very true.

  17. Abu Sinan…I agree with your father completely.

  18. Abu Sinan–while I agree with your father, I find it hard to believe that such high levels of illiteracy until relatively recently haven’t had an impact on parental reading habits with children, and the lack of public libraries in Saudi. The nightly story telling, as Daifuku describes it, is more common in oral cultures. Also, the reading only for an educational purpose as opposed to a general reading culture is typical where the society has lower levels of literacy. Of course, fortunately, and to the credit of Saudi Arabia, literacy has improved rapidly, and the levels for young men and women are almost the same.

  19. I’m fascinated by the fact that reading in other countries can be painful. For instance, mostAmerican children’s books have brave, heroic characters who believe in capitalism.

    In other countries, reading isn’t a priority and the characters are often sad and pathetic for children to read about.

    My husband like most Syrians doesn’t even have an interest in reading the newspaper. That’s I guess the unfortunate thing that happens when the newspaper back home is hijacked to say only nice things about the dictator, and completely leave out real news. Nice post sweetie!

  20. Chiara-The nature of parental reading might have to do with the illitercay rates not too long ago, however, I agree with Abu Sinan on the matter of that hardly affecting the reading habits of the younger generation. As you said:”Of course, fortunately, and to the credit of Saudi Arabia, literacy has improved rapidly,” this hasn’t changed Saudi youth’s reading habits much. It is more of an Arabic scenario than a Saudi one. I find that most of my friends that read for pleasure and not just curriculum based, read in English. I could be wrong, I somehow believe it is tied with the nature of the language. On the other hand, poetry seems to be read a lot. There was a time between 2000-2004, when reading novels in forums was all the rage. I think it was the amyah factor that influenced those to read these stories. Although it seems logical to say that patterns of increase in literacy will cause a climb in the rate of avid readers, it just isn’t such.

  21. in teh case of saudi that is* sorry, I just noticed.

  22. Daifuku–Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It takes a while to establish new traditions, and we are talking 1 or 2 generations here. I am also speaking generally of Arab culture (which unfortunately until very recently had very low literacy rates especially for women, and those in rural locations). My experience is that the emphasis on communal family time in the evenings (beyond homework) coupled with literacy problems (functional literacy isn’t necessarily sufficient for reading and enjoying novels, and the means of testing literacy rates in some instances is the ability to read a simple sentence) lends itself more to storytelling and watching videos/television as a group.

    These challenges apply to any culture/country with low literacy rates. They also make it easier to control information (1 or 2 nationalized television/radio stations). I am not saying that literacy in and of itself makes avid readers, but rather that illiteracy prevents a culture of reading for pleasure, and a habit of reading to children.

    Thanks again for elaborating on reading patterns in Saudi (poetry rocks!).

  23. @Daifuku – ahhhhh….part of the challenge of being a Mom (or Aunt or big sister….) is to convince the little one that they will dream about the next part of the story and to share their dream the following day!

  24. @Annie – Actually Annie, I could not resist and used an image from the Library of Congress for the post! Sorry to disappoint you that it is not a Saudi library.

  25. @AzurEyes – Thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed this post! My own observations is that many Saudis just do not have the same interest in books as prevalent in Britian, American or Canada for example. But again, I wonder if this has to do with the school system where many of the Saudi schools continue using rote memorization as the prime learning technique? Would that discourage one from learning to read just for pleasure?

  26. @Jacee – I’m not sure how to say this but overall the children are raised differently than children elsewhere and certainly not like in the West. They play among cousins generally, in some families housemaids interact more with the children and are unlikely to read to them and there is an overall lack of discipline which is necessary to sit quietly and focus on a good book.

  27. @Monica – you and I are on the same page!

  28. @Jerry – poetry and poetry contests are a very big deal in the entire Middle East region.

  29. @Firebrand – there’s no internet so you can remain focused on your book! (said tongue in cheek….)

  30. @American Bedu – Honestly, I have no idea. Whereas the schools here rely heavily on books for everything, there are also a good many forced reading assignments in english classes that seem to be just torture – especially when they make you not only read the book faster than you’d have liked, losing out on its nuances and flavor, but then tear the poor thing apart using different analyses. I maintain that my love of reading survived high school thanks to the early start with my mother and grandmother – [American] high schools put too much pressure on reading quickly and often choose books not exactly well-suited for their audience. But again, that is just my humble opinion as a soon-to-be teacher.

  31. I would actually be interested to know more about teaching practices in Saudi Arabian schools, but I’m not sure where to look.

  32. @Azur Eyes – interesting perspective and I do agree that the choices or rather the reading materials “forced” on one during those formulative school years and the teacher themselves can also have a big impact on a student and his/her future enjoyment (or not) of reading.

    I remember when I was in second grade and the teacher was drawing names from a hat and giving out prizes. One of them was a big fat book of fairy tales. I remember squeezing my eyes shut and just praying my name would be called to win that book. I did win that book and cannot tell you how happy I was to have that lovely book in my collection. It lulled me to a happy sleep many times. Later in life when visiting that teacher and telling her how happy I was to have had my name pulled out of the hat for that book, she smiled and told me there was never any question…she knew how much I loved to read and appreciated books and therefore pointedly made sure I received that book as my prize! Teachers can be pretty smart, huh? (smile)

  33. @Azur Eyes – go to my Links page and check out the Xanga Cafe blog which is written by a teacher and her Saudi students.

  34. @American Bedu – I know exactly what you’re talking about. I can’t remember when I first became addicted to reading, but I do remember that it was my third grade teacher who made me decide I also would like to teach. Since then there have been a good many teachers, both good and bad – I just hope I fall into the former category and not the latter. Here’s hoping!

    And thanks for the info – I will have to check out that link. You always manage to spark my curiosity with your posts – thanks for all your efforts! :-)

  35. @Azur Eyes – by the tone of your comments which exert enthusiasm, I have no doubt you will make an excellent teacher!

    Best Regards, Bedu

  36. We always had summer reading programs back home in our local libraries with prizes given at the end…it kept us busy..gave us a goal…and got us into the libraries and off the streets (not that we would be in the streets…lol).

    Libraries are very unutilized here.

  37. :( is unutilized a word ;)

  38. This is a great post! Funny thing is, my hubby and I were just talking about this 2 days ago.
    Until I moved to Saudi, every single night, my sister-in-law and I went to Border’s (a bookstore in the States) and read and drank coffee for about 2-3 hours. It was a nightly ritual, and if for some reason, we didn’t make it for more than 2 nights, I felt something was missing.
    So, of course, when my husband told me about Al-Jarir last week, I was uber-excited. I went a few times, the fiction section is not as vast as I had hoped. I was really surprised that they DO have the Shopaholic series, though :D
    What sucks about the bookstores here is there is no area to sit and read there except 4 armchairs in a row, which are usually occupied by men. So, I ended up buying 2 very expensive books and am already done with one…I’ve been trying to “save” the other one for when I’m reallllly really bored.

    As for the library, I hadn’t been going as much because I prefer the bookstore with coffee, and I ALWAYS get late fees… :(
    My sister goes every Friday after work, and gets 20 books for her son and daughter. If they are bad that week, their punishment is “No Library.”
    She just started this last year because growing up, we ALWAYS went to the library. It was a big part of our lives. All of my siblings and I were obsessed with reading, and still are. Her kids, though, really like the Gameboys and laptops and stuff, so this was a means to slowly ease them off..and it worked somewhat. :D
    I can’t wait to see if there is a library near me!

  39. ” I wonder if this has to do with the school system where many of the Saudi schools continue using rote memorization as the prime learning technique? Would that discourage one from learning to read just for pleasure?”
    American Bedu, God bless you for mentioning this! The system really needs some revving up. I do believe it could have to do with the general atitude towards books here.

  40. Exactly…teachers make reading through memorization a chore…there is no joy in doing a chore.

  41. @coolred – I also remember with fondness the summer time programs at the local library. Such programs would be ideal for Saudi (and Bahrain) as it would provide something to do and out of the intense heat too.

    I think you meant underutilized but I like unutilized…guess we need to contact Webster’s Dictionary!!

  42. @TXGal – You might see if there is a library oriented for expats (ie, more selection and variety of English language books) where your husband is employed. And you can also order from Amazon.com and use Aramax to have them shipped to you in Saudi. (do a search on my blog for shipping and/or Aramax for details on how to set up such an account).

  43. @daifuku – I’m a great believer in campaigns for awareness and education…it would actually be fun to initiate a campaign on the joy of reading in both English and Arabic.

  44. Saudis do read… and they don’t only read what they have to..…. They read newspapers everyday, for example. Saudis, however, do not read books, and I think part of the reason is the bad experience almost every Saudi person has had with books. Most Saudis were forced to memorize the subject learned in schools… which in turn made them dislike books. Saudis were never taught to love and enjoy books… that’s how I see it.
    As for me, I do read.. I could read just about anything and everything, when time permits. I’m not fond of public libraries though.. especially the ones we have here.. maybe because I’m a book keeper… and borrowing books is not my habit… So.. I go to jarir frequently… but it doesn’t satisfy me much… Amazon is my best friend.. although it’s not the fastest way to get books. As a matter of fact.. I just bought a few books on Thursday.. let’s see how long they will take to reach my mailbox.. with standard delivery.

  45. I never really thought about it before, but the literacy rate certainly would have an impact. Neither of my husband’s parents could read or write, and that wasn’t unusual in their generation, so obviously his generation wasn’t read to.

    We were just in Jarir today, and most of the kids who were looking at books were looking for High School Musical and Hannah Montana… which brings me to my next point.

    As an adult, I don’t read much fiction any more. I read it occasionally, as a break (like now, after all our exams are finished) – but I believe that my time is better spent reading and trying to memorize Quran, trying to learn Arabic, and learning about Islam.

    I often hear the study that Abu Sinan cited (I think the comparison was with Spain, not Greece). But now that I have children and am trying to find books that they would like, and that would be good for them, I have a different opinion about that… I look back at a lot of the “classics” of English literature, and I don’t find much benefit in a lot of it.

    There are a lot of classic Arabic-language books (especially Islamic books) from over the centuries, and most of the English-langauge bestsellers don’t compare with them. Should we be happy if they translate High School musicals and Hannah Montana books so Arabic kids can fill their heads with that garbage? I’d rather my kids learned the lives of the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions than the lives of Hannah Montana and her friends.

    The very first word of the Quran that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad was “Read”. (Read: in the name of your Lord ).

    But Muslims reading this probably also are familiar with this supplication made by the Prophet (pbuh): “O Allah, I seek protection with you from useless knowledge…”

  46. I personally think it’s a shame that people don’t read about life in the rest of the world either history or good fiction … anything that would expand the mind and broaden the horizon. There are so many excellent books out there written by people who are wonderful story tellers. Reading shouldn’t be a ‘guilty’ pleasure. Men and women have been writing stories forever and it’s sad to feel time would be better spent studying only the Quran or one’s religion. Can people not do both??? I also think that there is very little “useless knowledge” in the world.

  47. @Nader – even though you said you do not borrow books, let me know if you ever want to check out my library at home. I’m like you and will read anything and everything I can get my hands on!

  48. @munaqabah – In regards to classics, I would encourage anyone from anywhere to read the writings of Mark Twain. He is one of my all time favorite writers.

  49. Even a fictional book without much substance is good at time to read when stressed out and trying to just forget for a while and immerse oneself in something lighthearted.

  50. Munaqabah–I would agree that there are many excellent English language classics, including for children. In addition to Mark Twain, I would recommend Lucy Maud Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder (the original books), Lewis Carroll, the lighter Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter (for younger ones)….

    I fully agree that translated trash is still trash, and I have come to be highly sceptical of “best sellers” including, alas, those on the New York Times Best Seller list (most worth a quick skimread in a bookstore). Light reading is of course a pleasure from time to time, and as a diversion.

  51. Every book…whether fiction or non…has a story to tell. We can always take something away from whatever type book we have just turned the last page on.

    I myself prefer non fiction but will stray over to Koontz and King when I just want some light relief. Its all good.

    Of course if your going to stick to religious texts…then make sure you read what the anti’s whatever have to say about your religion as well. It makes debating and discussions alot more interesting when you know where your “enemy” is coming from. So read both sides of the debate issue.

    You never know what you might learn and from which direction it will come from.

  52. Just to be clear… as I said, my kids read all the time (especially in the summer, which is why we always buy a lot of books around this time of year). They read mostly in English when they’re reading on their own, so they are exposed to different cultures, and they’re exposed to the classics, both at school and at home.

    But as an adult, I certainly do think my time is better spent studying the deen (from the classical scholars, who know what they’re talking about, not the “anti-” people). And like I said, I do occasionally read novels for a break and relaxation.

    And I do think that there is A LOT of useless information in the world. Even “news” programs and websites are full of “news” about celebrities, for example. I have no interest in that stuff, but I find myself knowing all kinds of things about them, simply from the headlines and fetaures on the Yahoo homepage or even headlines on the BBC website…

  53. @coolred – I agree with you that every book has a story. One that makes a good read for those who wish to follow Saudi Arabia which I finished recently is “The King’s Messenger” and is all about Prince Bandar.

  54. I wish I were in Riyadh right now so I could share the title of a book in my home library. We have a beautiful book that is full of classic Arab stories and poems which have been translated to English. It is well worth having in a personal library.

    On Sun, Jun 14, 2009 at 8:30 PM, Carol Fleming wrote: > @coolred – I agree with you that every book has a story. One that > makes a good read for those who wish to follow Saudi Arabia which I > finished recently is “The King’s Messenger” and is all about Prince > Bandar. > > On Sun, Jun 14, 2009 at 8:55 AM,

  55. Have you read “The Road to Mecca” by Muhammad Asad? Or “Arabian Sands” by Wilfred Thesiger? I enjoyed both of those, and it’s amazing to read them and realize that the world they’re describing is the way it was not even 100 years ago.

  56. @munaqabah – oh yes….those are excellent books!

  57. forget everything.. tell me.. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THIS LIBRARY???? :O.. ill visit the cuontry for the sake of this library… MAN this library i can study for ages

  58. Yousuf–This is the Library of Congress, Washington DC. Good travelling, studying, and reading! :)

  59. I always loved Mark Twain, and we have some of his books, but my sons (I’m not ignoring daughters – I don’t have any) try them and then stop because they get tired of trying to make out the dialect.

  60. Munaqabah–I believe there are versions that are rewritten to reduce the dialect (eg. of “Nigger Jim”) and reduce the politically incorrect language (eg. “Nigger Jim”)–rather defeats the purpose in my opinion, but perhaps it is easier for children. Since you have boys, in the light but interesting category, how about the Hardy Boys? Or the adventures of Tintin in English? Depends on their ages, reading levels, and areas of interest I guess. Sir Walter Scott’s novels (historical fiction held responsible for the loss of the Civil War–let me know if you want me to explain) and Wilkie Collins’ “The Moonstone” (great mytery/pirate/historical novel) also come to mind as boys’ classics (enjoyed by this girl LOL ) :D

  61. Yousuf – if you are talking about the library in the image, that is the Library of Congress in Washington, DC which is incredible!!!!

  62. “da da” means baby and sometimes they tend to say it before ma ma & ba ba. It would be nice to know what everyone’s first word was :P .

  63. oops wrong place* sorry, I tend to open them all at a time

  64. One of them likes the Hardy Boys… We don”t really have a problem finding books they like. I live in Kuwait; there are several big bookstores, a used bookstore, and there’s always Amazon!

  65. I loved Lady Blunts diaries, Both Arabia and horses together!
    Lord and Lady Blunt travelled extensivly through the middle East, going as far as the Nejd and Hail, in their search for perfect Arabian horses. They were also unique in that they were very knowlegable in Arab customs, and spoke and wrote Arabic.
    Especially Lady Blunt who was the brains of the outfit, she was reported to be fluent, and kept up her studies for the rest of her life.
    Her diary and paintings show a unique insight of trekking through the desert, meeting different tribes and seeing lots of Arab horses in the nineteenth century.

  66. Munaqabah–You are lucky then!

    If you or anyone else ever wants to read free online (or free except the cost of your personal printer) classics (in a number of languages and dialects) for adults or children (eg Bobbsey Twins series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Aesop, etc) I highly recommend Project Gutenberg:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

    They also have an extensive collection of human read audio books in a number of languages. No Arabic though–volunteer project anyone?

  67. Just thought of the wonderful Canadian children’s writer Robert Munsch. He writes fabulous books he tests on kids first through storytelling in libraries and schools, and has a great website of his own explaining the genesis of his works by his interaction with children, with stories, pictures, and letters from the actual children.

    http://www.robertmunsch.com/

    Buy “I’ll Love You Forever” for all children, parents, and grandparents (and offer with a box of tissues for the tears).

    Also, kids being kids, for parents: Barbara Colaroso’s “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School–How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence” (also good for the immature behaviours of adults). Colaroso is a former nun, former classroom teacher, a mother, and an internationally known parenting and conflict resolution expert.

  68. [...] of LibrariesA great article by American Bedu made me realize that the United Arab Emirates is short on public libraries and that building such [...]

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