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Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design [Paperback]

Malu Halasa , Rana Salam
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

29 Aug 2008
Syrian lingerie is racy attire little-known in the west. Manufactured in Syria and exported throughout the Middle East, it blinks, sings, vibrates, and flashes lights, and is adorned with everything from faux fir to artificial flowers and feathered birds to colourful plastic toy cell phones. This sort of lingerie is well known and accepted in Syrian culture, and is openly displayed in the markets and souks - it forms an important part of the longstanding folk traditions around weddings and marriage. Brides-to-be are given it as gifts by their mothers, or buy it themselves; husbands buy it for wives. "The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" gathers together text and photo essays that introduce and celebrate some of the most outrageous undergarments in the world, and challenge our perceived notions of women, sex, and humour in the Muslim world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (29 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811864588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811864589
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 17 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 373,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Malu Halasa is one of the most original writers and editors covering the Middle East ... witty, sumptuous and genuinely revelatory ... also superbly produced and designed. --Newstatesman

'A peek into a nation's underwear drawers can be very telling ... frank discussions about marriage and sex follow from voices that are rarely heard ... however, this is not a heavy book about female oppression. I casts a light into some private areas, but also picks up on the exuberance of Syrian sexual culture' --The Independent

About the Author

Malu Halasa is an editor and journalist. She is the co-editor of Creating Spaces of Freedom: Culture in Defiance (2002), Transit Beirut: New Writing and Images (2004), and Transit Tehran: Young Iran and its Inspirations (2008). Former managing editor of the Prince Claus Fund Library, she was also a founding editor of Tank magazine. She lives in London and writes for the British press. Rana Salam has run her own London-based design practise since 1992. Her exploration of Middle-Easter popular culture, product design and crafts has led her to create and distinct graphics style. She has been commissioned by Paul Smith, Liberty's and Harvey Nicolls, among others. She has been exhibited in Lebanon, the United State Emirates and the United Kingdom by the Arts Council and Institute of International Visual Arts (inlVA). Omar Al-Moutem has been taking photographs for the past twenty-five years. He first worked as a passport photographer and later as a product photographer before setting up his own studio. He photographs for Syrian lingerie manufacturers in Damascus. Gilbert Hage is an artist and photographer who has exhibited in Lebanon, Brazil and Germany. Her participated in Present Absence: Contemporary Art from Lebanon (2004) at Galerie Tanit, Munich. Hage teaches at the University Saint-Esprit de Kaslik in Lebanon and at the Academie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (Alba), University of Balamand. Iman Ibrahim has been writing poetry for the past twelve years. Her poems have appeared in Syrian newspapers and magazines. Her first book of verse, The Window of Zebra, was published by the Syrian Ministry of Culture. After she studied photography at Le Pont Gallery in Aleppo, her work has consisted primarily of self-portraiture. She has exhibited in Syria, Lebanon and Europe. Noura Kevorkan is a filmmaker, painter, photographer and composer. Her first documentary, Veils Uncovered (2001), won numerous awards, including the National Film Board Award for Best Canadian Documentary at the 2002 Reelworld Film Festival, Toronto and the Golden Sheaf Award for Best Documentary at the 2002 Yorkton Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Documentary at the 2002 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. Reine Mahfouz, a photographer, documented Palestinian camps in Lebanon for UNESCO. Her many ongoing photography projects include Beirut Unveiled (1998), documenting the city's continuing evolution through its construction awnings and the portraiture project "Nomadic Studio" (2001) featured at Home Works III, Ashkal Alwan's art symposium. Issa Touma has been a photographer for the past fifteen years. In 1992 he established the first photography gallery in Syria, the Black and White Gallery. After its closure in 1995, he opened Le Pont, the only gallery dedicated to contemporary photography in Aleppo. In 1997 he founded the biennial Aleppo International Photography Gathering, an event that grew form 600 visitors in its first year to more than 7,000 in 2004.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating! 19 Mar 2009
By Muppet
Format:Paperback
anyone who's ever been to Syria was probably (like me) somewhat flabbergasted by the unbelievably racy undies on full display in umpteen market stalls in the souk in the context of a predominantly Muslim country. The photos in this book are beautiful, the stories of the makers, the sellers and the customers are fascinating and I would highly recommend it. It's not a 'dodgy' book and is quite safe to give to your Mum!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Evelyn
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Malu Halasa and Rana Salam have taken a look at a strange phenomena - incredible creativity in designing underwear that seems in total contradiction with the growing conservatism in outer wear of women in the Arab World in general and in Syria in particular. The text is not always easy to read (colour and background of text), but is worth the effort as they uncover and explore an unexpected way of thinking. The photos of most unexpected designs are guaranteed to surprise those who've not seen such garments in the souks of Damascus ... and some are almost unbelievable even to those who've seen such garments!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie 19 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback
I was on holidays in Syria last year and found out about this book in a travel guide. Before going to the Middle East I had whatever images of life there in my head as is often portrayed by the Western Media, but as with any type of Media coverage, it is coloured by the predjudices of the person who is telling the story. I was more open-minded about the country as a relative of mine lived there for most of her adult life.

I was however taken aback when I saw the lingerie openly displayed in the Souks, and also the stall holders were all male. I decided to buy the book and it gives a different insight into what is covered up underneath, what goes on behind closed doors - like anywhere else in the world. People are the same the world over.
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3.0 out of 5 stars pictures could have been a bit better 10 Jun 2014
By HL
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was an interesting book but it could have done with a lot more detail and better photography. But enlightening.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird, just weird 13 Nov 2009
By Tom Ahern - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have to admit, it was the title that won my heart. Almost anything that would pay off a title this mysterious would be fine, I thought when I purchased this book. I wasn't prepared for a well-documented, pretty serious look at the bizarre (to my American, secular eyes) world of female-underwear marketing in the Middle East. Imagine women, cloaked as conservative Muslim societies demand, out shopping for the most outrageous lingerie, locally dreamt up and stitched, adorned with feathers and who knows what (the cover photo is a pretty normal example), all intended as happy marriage aides, to bring entertainment for husband's eyes only into the privacy of the bedroom.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Syrian lingerie unveiled 13 Sep 2011
By T. L. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
A fascinating look at an primarily Islam country affection for (trashy) lingerie. Book is filled with interviews and essays by Syrian men & women about the role lingerie has in a marriage. The women do not buy this lingerie before marriage. A common theme thru the book is that the lingerie is very important to most in a marriage, otherwise & I quote "the men would otherwise stray.".My conclusion is a Syrian woman must be a nun in public & temptress in private. Most of the lingerie in the book is childishly funny. Some of the thongs & bras have cell phone, feathers , flowers, stuffed animals, sequins, tweety bird, some play songs like Old Mac Donald had a farm. A good read and it gives you something to think about.
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