Arts & Culture

5 fictional works by Gulf women you should read

From love to crime, there’s something for all book worms.

By Sekka Editorial

Over the last period especially, the Arab World witnessed the publications of valuable reads by female authors from the Arab Gulf States. Some of these books were recipients of international awards and recognitions, and have been translated to a number of languages. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we share with you a list of different recommended fictional works, revolving around different themes such as love, family and folklore, written by female writers from the region.

Celestial Bodies, by Omani author Jokha Alharthi

Image: Sekka.

Jokha Alharthi is an Omani  author and academic who holds a PhD in Classic Arabic Literature from the University of Edinburgh. In  2010, she published her novel Sayyidat Al Qamar in Arabic. The novel creatively depicts the social and economic transformations that took place in Oman in the past century, as well as the stories of love and loss, mainly through the voices of three sisters from a village in the country. It was later translated into English by Marilyn Booth and subsequently landed the Man Booker International Prize in 2019, making Jokha the first Arab writer to receive the award. The novel is available in both English and Arabic. You can order your copy here.

All that I want to forget, by Kuwaiti author Bothayna Al-Essa

Image: Goodreads.

Bothayna Al-Essa is a Kuwaiti writer and novelist. Bothayna penned more than seven novels and is the recipient of multiple literary awards. Her work revolves around various social issues such as mental illness and family relationships. 

Her novel, All that I want to forget, deals with a number of issues that affect women, such as marriage and the familial ties. The story takes place in the late eighties to the nineties of the last century and follows the heroine of the story, Fatima, who is raised by her brother after the death of her parents, and who exercises control over her and deprives her of much, but she resists. Originally written in Arabic, the novel has also been translated into English. Order your copy here.

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Um Hailan, by Emirati author Dubai Abulhoul

Image: Kalimat Group.

Um Hilan is the fifth edition in a series of children’s stories inspired by Emirati folklore and literature. Each book in the Emirati writer Dubai Abulhoul’s series features the stories of fictional folklore characters that have been passed down for generations, but they are written by Dubai in an innovative way. Um Hailan revolves around the heroine of the story with the same name. Nobody knows where she comes from, or where she ends up going. Along with her grandfather, they move from their place as soon as people discover the truth of Um Hailan and her extraordinary abilities. Though it is a children’s book, its innovative nature will appeal to adults as well.

Dubai Abulhoul is the young author of six books, including the first Emirati fantasy novel, and the recipient of the Arab Youth Award in 2016. Her works have been translated into several languages, including Arabic and Italian. Order your copy here.

The Dove’s Necklace, by Saudi author Raja Alem

Image: Amazon.

The Dove’s Necklace is a novel by Saudi author Rajaa Alem. Published in 2010, the writer received the International Booker Prize for Arabic Fiction for it in 2011 (making her the first Arab woman to do so), and shared it with Moroccan author Mohamed Al-Ash’ari. The novel, originally written in Arabic and later translated into English, revolves around a mysterious crime that takes place one night in Mecca, and tackles different issues such as modern-day slavery, and the exploitation of workers. Raja has published ten novels and four plays, and is the recipient of multiple awards and honors.  Order your copy here.

The Pact We Made, by Kuwaiti writer Layla AlAmmar

Image: Harper’s Collin’s Publishers.

The Pact We Made is a 2019 novel by Kuwaiti author Layla AlAmmar. Set in modern day Kuwait, the novel follows the life of the single lead character, Dhalia, who is fast approaching her thirtieth birthday, the age in which a woman of her status is seen to have surpassed her prime years for marriage. As she is pressured to accept proposal from suitors, Dhalia struggles between two worlds: the life of modernity that Kuwait offers, and the restrictions that come with it that she is bound by.

Layla AlAmmar holds a degree in creative writing, and her works have been published in multiple literary magazines. Her forthcoming novel, Silence Is A Sense, will be published in the spring of this year. Order your copy of The Pact We Made here.

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