Sunday, April 27, 2008


During my repeated visits to the hospital and clinic in the past two weeks, I couldn't help but notice the difference between what Arabs and Westerners do with their time.

I am trying very hard to avoid generalizations and stereotyping, but while waiting for their turn to see the doctor, MOST westerners read a book, while MOST Arabs spent their time talking on the cell phone, starting conversation with whoever is sitting next to them, watching others, napping, or just getting agitated battling boredom.

I fully understand that the percentage of illiteracy is high in the Arab countries. I also understand that in most Arab societies, buying books is a luxury that is not afforded by many. But my observation is true for Arabs waiting in Airports, traveling on planes, trains, relaxing in cafes, and what have you. This crowd is mostly college graduates & professionals who can definitely afford buying a couple of books each month. I for one, never had a book to read when I traveled, visited the doctor, went to the hair dresser,... until a couple of years back. So I am not accusing or blaming, I am just saying that it is not in our culture to do so.

I hope that reading becomes an integral part of the Arab culture. For a nation that brags about being religious, it's strange that there is a collective agreement to ignore the first commandment decreed in Islam. READ.


Anonymous said...

Are you sure the westerners are really reading the books? They might be just pretending to be reading to avoid being social...


Anonymous said...

I think while there may be an extreme shortage of regular readers, it is safe to say that there is an EXTREME shortage of writers. (Listen to the lyrics of popular mainstream music!)

It really embarrassing to ask people what Abdel Halim and Om Kalthoum where singing about then comparing it to "3anab" and "7antoors". I guess this shift is interesting to analyze as many people like Galal Amin amongst others have. Although, this phenomena is not at all particular to the Arab world.

Mass distraction indeed.