Guests of the Sheik

1534 words 7 pages
Ethnocentrism: The Cultural Differences between Western and Middle Eastern Cultures

Through its ethnocentric tales and family based beliefs, Elizabeth Warnock Fernea’s Guests of the Sheik suggests that to find the true representation of Islamic culture, one must leave ethnocentrism behind. Not only will we discuss ethnocentrism and the cultural differences between Western and Middle Eastern societies, we will also take a look at the women of El Nahra and family within the differing societies.

Fernea entered El Nahra naïve to the culture. However, was an innocent bystander, she became indignant because of the reference of wearing the abayah, “ because she viewed the “abayah” as not being a part of her culture and
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Obviously, from an American perspective, a women’s freedom of choice in this facet of El Nahran culture is lacking. However, viewing marriage cross-culturally, their priorities as a tribe and culture are different and we cannot view them through American eyes. We should understand that family is the most important feature of each of their lives, and the preservation of the family line is of the utmost priority to them. In El Nahra, it may have seemed to Beeja that women have no power in their society. However, power may have multiple meanings as one travels from culture to culture. In America, a woman may view power in terms being able to obtain and maintain a stable, high-paying job on her own. We may also view a woman of no power as one without a job, simply satisfied being a common housewife. However, in El Nahra, as Beeja finds out, the women have more power as housewives. Their power comes from their ability to please their husband, and it is known, who were the preferred wives. As a favored wife, bearing children gives the woman power in her community amongst both women and men. “A typical well-respected wife would have served and respected her husband, worked hard, kept herself beautiful for him, made him laugh, and of course borne him sons (1965:169). They also obtain their power and respect from their capability to do what American women may consider to be menial chores. Preparation of meals and the

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