Travelogue on Saudi desert life wins award

A book on Saudi Arabia authored by Indian journalist Muzaffar Ahmed has won Kerala’s top honor — the Sahitya Academy Award. The book, a travelogue, highlights the life and culture of Saudis in different parts of the Kingdom, especially Bedouins who live in the desert.Ahmed published “Marubhoomiyude Atmakatha” (the Biography of the Desert) in Kerala state’s Malayalam language in 2007 after traveling different parts of the Kingdom, including the Empty Quarter. Its first edition sold out soon after the award was announced.Publisher Thrishur Current Books nominated the book for the coveted literary award. “This is the first book on Saudi Arabia winning a Sahitya Academy Award,” Ahmed told Arab News while speaking about his adventurous journeys across the Kingdom.He disclosed plans to bring out an English translation of the170-page book, which is written in a unique style mixing prose with poetry. The book’s major chapter is devoted to the holy city of Makkah, and outlines the spiritual experiences of Haj pilgrims and Ahmed’s observations of them.Ahmed, who works for Malayalam News, highlighted the role of the desert in developing qualities of magnanimity and graciousness among human beings in addition to the qualities of patience, cooperation and awareness of the environment and nature.Literary critics said Ahmed won the award thanks to the marvelous style of presentation of his lively and first-hand experiences while traveling through the Kingdom’s regions, living with Bedouins and enjoying their hospitality and traditions.The author was all praise about Bedouins, saying they are honest, helpful and friendly.

“They will welcome you with warmth and will not allow you to leave without taking food with them. They will also force you to stay with them. You cannot see such hospitality anywhere else in the world,” he said. Bedouin women are very hardworking as they engage themselves in agriculture and rearing animals. They will be happy to host their guests and prepare a variety of delicious dishes.Ahmed, who has traveled about 400 km inside the Empty Quarter, said concrete buildings are gradually replacing mud houses in desert areas. Some Bedouins have sent their children to Western countries for higher studies.Many Saudis, who presently live in big cities like Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, find happiness in spending part of their vacation in deserts where they set tents to camp with their families, Ahmed said. Explaining the Kingdom’s geography, its historical background and the life and culture of its people is the specialty of Ahmed’s book that allowed him to win the award, which few writers in the Gulf have received before – Arabnews