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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight- highly recommended, no previous knowledge of the Middle East required to enjoy the book
As someone who's never been to the Middle East, my impression of the Arab Spring was drawn from a bombardment of news reports; despite realising the importance of the events, it was very difficult to properly identify with the millions of people who had triggered this incredible revolution.

This changed with Karama. The book introduces us to a wide range of...
Published on 9 Aug. 2011 by zararah

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelmed
I purchased this book in order to understand more about the people's lives in the countries affected by the Arab Spring. However, as much as this book provides some interesting conversations between the author and the civilians, you can't get past the fact that the author spends as much time reminiscing his own past visits to north Africa and going off on tangents...
Published 18 months ago by euan


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight- highly recommended, no previous knowledge of the Middle East required to enjoy the book, 9 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
As someone who's never been to the Middle East, my impression of the Arab Spring was drawn from a bombardment of news reports; despite realising the importance of the events, it was very difficult to properly identify with the millions of people who had triggered this incredible revolution.

This changed with Karama. The book introduces us to a wide range of individuals, some who are by now fairly well known- the family of Khaled Said, for example- and others, whose stories would not otherwise have been told. We meet courageous 20-somethings who have been transformed into national heroes, and read the astonishing story of an unspoken truce between police and civilians during daylight hours which was replaced by violent warfare at night, and pages later we encounter an old-school army superior, convinced that Mubarak had it right. There are seemingly mundane events, such as journeys in shared taxis and coffees on street corners, which give us an insight into the views of "ordinary" people, combined with run-ins with the army at checkpoint and horrific stories from torture victims; perhaps an insight into the huge diversity of events happening in the Middle East at the moment.

Reading so many different perspectives on the Arab Spring from those who were there, those who took part (or actively didn't take part) and those who are now living in the consequences of the revolution, was fascinating. Instead of providing a political analysis into the events, West offers an unashamedly subjective account, and it is for this reason that the book is so unique amongst the mountain of reading material already available about the revolution. He reveals his personal opinions and previous experiences of his life in the Middle East, combined with captivating nuggets of background information which offer more context for those of us who are less well-versed in the rich history of the region.

I would recommend this book not just for those with a previous interest in the Middle East, but for those who have, up to now, felt like much of the reading material available presumes previous knowledge of the region. Karama provides a straightforward and easily comprehensible entry point into an incredible culture, at a time when understanding and tolerance between different societies is crucial to seeing the revolution through to a successful end.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing and insightful perspective from the front line of the politicall movements shaking and shaping our worldview, 27 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
Never more so than in the wake of the most recent reports from the frontline in Libya, many of us find it difficult to make sense of the chaotic mixture of exhilarating hope and guilty trepidation about the future inspired by the Arab Spring.

In his account, West deals not in the discourse of overly politicized commentary, glib remarks around the table at dinner parties, nor drily objective reporting, but in the everyday observations of a man with an evident and sincere affection for this complex region. The author by no means shies from exposing the rough with the smooth & the inherent naivety of the heady expectations of the revolutionaries is often left clear to see. The account is all the richer for presenting the keen perceptions of someone who has built a slow and steady acquaintance with this region, rather than the fleeting crisis-chaser looking for a quick headline. The author in fact himself admits an awkward progression in his relationship with the Middle East, from the early stage of infatuation and inevitable `attraction-to-the-Other', through mild disappointment and resulting in a deep sense of familiarity - a journey surely familiar to all those who have stumbled upon absorbing passions for mesmerizing yet bewildering parts of the world.

Through the lens of everyday issues, garnered through conversations snatched not in government ministires or press pens but in coffee shops and grocery stores, (such as the wounded pride of the legions of 45-year old Tunisian men living at home and still extracting pocket money from their parents) we begin to look on the genesis of the eventual explosive events in Tahrir Square from a new angle. Given West's history in traditional and digital media in the developing world, he also has insightful comments to make about the role of the internet in the infamous `Facebook revolution'.

This is a courageous attempt at demystifying the evocative Arabic term `karama' - an untranslatable concept of honour and dignity which fuelled much of the protest movement - across cultural boundaries which so frequently seem depressingly impermeable. It is a work which will prove equally refreshing to both seasoned Middle East enthusiasts and those like me with scant knowledge of the region looking for a deeper understanding of the seismic shifts rippling across the Arab world & flashing daily onto our television screens.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring., 30 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
The best read I've had in a long time. Very fresh - this was written and published very quickly. Lots of first-hand accounts, voices of people who were there and involved. Also a lot of insight from the author - this is someone who really knows what he is writing about. A snapshot in time, because things have already moved on, but this will stand as an inspirational read, however things turn out, becuase of the optimism and strength of the voices that come through.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelmed, 28 July 2013
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This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
I purchased this book in order to understand more about the people's lives in the countries affected by the Arab Spring. However, as much as this book provides some interesting conversations between the author and the civilians, you can't get past the fact that the author spends as much time reminiscing his own past visits to north Africa and going off on tangents regarding issues that people are not that bothered about.

The delivery of the people's stories is somewhat disappointing. I was hoping for much more detail and less of the basic conversational dialogue that this book is full of. I must commend the author on his understanding of Arabic, but his constant reminders about his ability to speak the language add nothing to the book.

I bought this to educate myself further on the north African revolutions but find myself knowing more about the author's past work, education, holidays and experiences. If you wish to know what the author thought about swimming in the Med then by all means buy this book. However, if you are after an entirely unbiased view of the revolutions steer clear as it will only annoy you to have to tolerate the authors persistent opinions and tall tales that are thrust upon you in every chapter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Decent read, 22 Sept. 2012
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Adil Hussain "adilson05uk" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
Decent read for anyone wanting to get a feel for the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of those on the ground - in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya - who took part in the Arab uprising last year. Though the book is not conclusive as to why exactly the protests succeeded this time round in toppling those in power (Mohammed Bouazizi and Khalid Said cited as catalysts in the case of Tunisia and Egypt respectively) nor where these three nations are headed (creating jobs and restoring order cited as high concerns), it can't be held as a criticism of the book as that is not the author's objective. I found the first two parts on Tunisia and Egpyt much better reads than the third part on Libya, which seemed rushed and contained less characters (and more facts and stats and stuff!) than the first two parts. Overall: good, simple to read, easy to follow insight into some of the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of those on the ground before, during and immediately following the uprising.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping - if incomplete - account, 18 July 2012
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This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
A very impressive on-the-ground account of the Arab Spring and its immediate aftermath, peppered with brilliant, intimate detail and first-hand accounts. If I have one criticism, it's that the author or publisher might have waited until the Libyan Civil War had come to its conclusion, as this last part of the book feels unfinished. I appreciate that at the time of writing, the outcome (ie, Gaddafi's capture and execution) couldn't be known, but the result of publishing the book while everything was still up in the air is that it feels a little rushed out, almost a cash-in, and I'm sure - or at least I'd hope - that this was never the intention. Otherwise, this is well-written and insightful, and admirably balanced, particularly in the chapters dealing with Egyptian Islamism. If I could give it 4.5 stars, I would, as my point about the Libyan section of the book is a very minor one, and could be resolved in a future, revised edition of the book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars encounters with the revolution, 3 May 2012
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markr - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
This an interesting and enjoyable account of the author's travels in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, after the first days of the revolutions in each of those countries, and his encounters with a wide variety of people who played an active part in those revolutions, or who lived through them.

The lives of the people in each country, and the variety of living standards, expectations, and lifestyles across the arab world are made clear through these encounters. Sometimes this reads a little like a travelogue, where the author, a former Reuters correspondent and current UN advisor on the oil industry, describes in detail the street in Alexandria where the revolution in Egypt began, or his visit to Greek and Roman ruins in Libya, his visits to coffee shops and his experiences in crossing the Libyan/Egyptian border. All of this is enjoyable reading, but a little more background on the causes of the revolutions, would have added further depth to the book.

All in all a good and enjoyable read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karama, 2 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (Paperback)
Service excellent, arrived quickly and in perfect condition. The book is a must read! It cuts through the bias often influencing the media.
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Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring
Karama!: Journeys Through the Arab Spring by Johnny West (Paperback - 4 Aug. 2011)
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