The Sheltered Quarter

Author: Hamza Bogary

Publishing House: Ctr for Middle Eastern Studies UT-Austin

Publication Year: 1991

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 141

The Sheltered Quarter: A Tale of a Boyhood in Mecca by Hamza Bogary offers a poignant glimpse into a vanishing way of life, now lost beyond reclamation. Bogary eloquently recounts the era in Mecca before the transformative advent of oil, infusing the narrative with his childhood memories and keen observations. While only partially autobiographical, the memoir is a reservoir of vivid details drawn from Bogary’s early encounters with life in Mecca, transcending mere recollection by transforming his knowledge into an artistic portrayal.

Imbued with humor, empathy, and a profound understanding of human nature, Bogary’s work not only entertains but also serves as an informative window into the Arabia of the first half of the twentieth century. The narrator, young Muhaisin, navigates various facets of Arabian culture, delving into topics such as education, pilgrimages, clothing styles, slavery, public executions, the status of women, and religion.

Muhaisin’s narrative is characterized by frank language and vibrant humor, endearing the reader to the charming and mischievous boy at the heart of this universal tale. Through the lens of Muhaisin’s experiences, readers are transported into a bygone era, gaining insights into the intricacies of Arabian life during a time of significant cultural shifts. The memoir serves as both a captivating story and a historical document, offering a graphic and fascinating portrayal of a society undergoing transformation.

In “The Sheltered Quarter,” Bogary’s ability to blend personal recollections with broader cultural insights creates a narrative that resonates beyond the specific time and place, providing readers with a deeper understanding of a world now relegated to the annals of history.

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