Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Harem Within: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood.

#SMIUWRITES is a bi mothly write up challenge for  SMI University's writers and bloggers. This week's topic for the write up is " The book I read." Here is my post.

Fatima Mernissi's The Harem Within: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood is a rich and lively memoir of her growing up in the four walls of haram of Fez, Morocco, back in 1940s. 

The time when Morocco was going in a social and political transition. And her haram was the last few harams of that time. 

The story is written in a fluid and painterly style with deep psycho-sociological analysis.  It narrates the daily life of women drowned in a straitjacket of obsolete traditions. It addresses the political and social life that existed at that time, nationalists who fought the French occupation, slavery, polygamy and claim of modernity. 

Before I go on, let me clear you that it is not the typical haram people anticipate where Arab kings live with countless female slaves.  I mean, technically they are enormous houses of rich people with huge walls. And places like middle east and south Asia, kings are/were only rich. They were the one who used to have luxury of big houses and many females. That is why people think haram is palace full with girls. 

Messeri was an upper middle class girl. Her haram was in the city where she  lived a sheltered  life in a joint family system with her parents and siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins and relatives. They had servants and old salves as well.  It was her father and uncle who  managed the house while her parental grandmother, Lala was the head of the family. Her decisions were full and final. There was establishment in that home.

There was  confinement, segregation and limitations, values, and  tradition. Like any traditional Arab families of that time, women were supposed to live in houses and wear veils. Permission from the males were required to go out. Everything was controlled, even the radio. New generation of males were getting used to modern inventions, and better education introduced  by French. She was also illiterate until adolescence.

There were characters with different views and opinion about modernity and change, but still there was vividness, hope for the better future, willingness for the reform. Women were ready to change. They wanted to know what was going outside the big walls of that huge world and see the world. They wanted to know, learn and break the chains. At least they were questioning. 

Her own mother's dream was a better Morocco for her. A liberated Morocco from all the chain of backwardness, superstition and tradition.

There was no such sadness no piety.

“But when your situation is hopeless, all you can do is turn the world upside down, transform it according to your wishes, and create a new.”

And that is why I loved reading it.

Why sad?

Why living controlled life?

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