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Mother without a Mask: A Westerner's Story of Her Arab Family [Paperback]

Patricia Holton , Andrea Jones
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Jan 1998
When Patricia Holton welcomed two young Arab boys into her home for the summer to oblige their father, a Gulf Sheikh, little did she realize how intertwined their lives would become. She became fascinated by the boys, and an invitation to visit their mother and the women of her family - the harem - was quickly accepted. Between Patricia and the masked women of the desert there developed an extraordinary relationship, and as "the English mother" of the Sheikh's sons she came to understand something of the traditions which govern their lives. This is her story.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Kyle Cathie; New edition edition (8 Jan 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185626288X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856262880
  • Product Dimensions: 24.7 x 15.7 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,390,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A deeply sympathetic evaluation of a culture -- The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

‘The drums, the singing, the swords and guns thrown high, the smell of spice and curry cooking, camels gurgling and sheep bleating, the white of a thousand kandoras moving from place to place, calling, laughing. It was a time beyond time, for waiting on the edge were the cars, the microphones, the electrical sounds, the power which would eventually swamp the indigenous rhythm of life in that place.’ --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
A YOUNG ARAB SAT comfortably on the drawing room couch in our London home drinking English tea and eating chocolate cake. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is the true account of a middle-class Western lady's extraordinary encounters with a UAE family. Patricia Holten is an American, married to a Cornish businessman. Her story starts in the early days of oil, when a Sheikh sends his two sons to England for their education, and she acts as their carer. The result is that Holton is given an unexpected opening into the private world of the Sheikh's family, back home in Abu Dhabi. Through many visits over many years, she builds a lasting relationship with the Sheikhs family, but what makes this account so unique is that much of what she learnt and observed came from the time she spent with the women.
Holten spent extensive periods living alongside the Sheikha and her extended family. She was with them at their home in Al Ain, in their desert camps, and latterly in their Abu Dhabi palaces. The care and sympathy with she recounts her experiences gives the reader a superb insight into a recent history which is, to many of us living here, little known and little understood. And while many of the old ways have died with the arrival of oil, it was suprising how often Holton's account shed light on some aspect of modern life which I had not fully understood.
This is a gentle book, with colourful and detailed descriptions of every day life. Having said that, the characters (slightly modified to protect their identity) do come alive, and the impact of the UAE's dramatic modernisation on their lives makes for a story-line which I found gripping.
Most impressive to me however, is the depth of learning that Holton's book offers.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for those visiting the Middle East 30 Mar 2005
By A Customer
I picked this book up in a supermarket in Abu Dhabi and found it impossible to put down once I started reading it. As a westerner living in the Middle East, I have been intrigued by the customs of the area and this book really helped to explain a great deal about many facets of family life here. I have visited Abu Dhabi twice and this book tells of life from the beginning of the oil rush onwards. If you are interested in social history, you will love this book. The insights into bedouin life and the role of women are excellent. This way of life is slowly disappearing. Thank goodness the author recorded her experiences for us all to share. One of the best books I've read in ages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 17 Oct 2008
I first learnt of this book whilst reading Patricia Scanlan's "City Woman". I certainly wouldn't consider myself a feminist, but have always been interested in women's lives in other cultures. I really enjoyed it. It was a bit of departure from the type of books I'd normally read, as you will see if you look at my other reviews! However, it was such a lovely book. The pace of it is quite slow & as much as I enjoyed reading it, I wasn't in any hurray to rush through it. I was pulled completely into the book & as a result, have an admiration for these women who still wear the mask. It is definitely a book worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 4 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very interesting stuff to read, one learns a lot from this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So interesting 17 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Gives an insight to the Middle East that is so interesting as it takes the reader to a family's way of life there around the time of the initial oil exploration and the exodus from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi and it's written from the perspective of a British woman, hence the title.
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