Diwan Baladna: Arab Culture from an Arab’s Perspective (Review)

March 13, 2013

Book cover for "Diwan Baladna" by Ahmad Kamal Azban.Title: Diwan Baladna: Arab Culture from an Arab’s Perspective

Author: Ahmad Kamal Azban

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 147

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Received as a gift from Zaid, purchased in the Amman airport

From the cover:

Everything you need to get inside Arab culture you will find in this book.

  • All essential cultural subjects from the perspective of a Jordanian, written in an easy-to-read way to help you thrive, not just survive, in the Arab culture.
  • Explanations of weddings and marriage, funerals, the “evil eye”, why moustaches are important, pigeon keeping, rumors, and much more.

Despite the fact that I’ve been living in an Arab country for almost two years now, there are still many aspects of Arab culture that I’m not exposed to in the UAE. Partly, this is because locals are so outnumbered by expat non-Arabs, but this is also simply because we see or hear a lot of things but don’t always understand them. So, with that in mind, Zaid thought that this would be a good book for me to read.

I like the format of the book: it’s very easy-to-follow and breaks all the topics down into understandable chunks. It’s a great resource for people who are just learning the basics of Arab culture. It covers all kinds of topics, with generalities for how things work in Arab culture and some specifics about each topic for Jordanian Arabs in particular. Each section is very short, and the author uses simple enough language for non-Arabic speakers to understand the ideas he’s talking about.

For someone who does know things about Arab culture, like me, this book was more like a refresher and a way to see things you might already know – or suspect – in writing. It doesn’t go into a great deal of depth, so if you’re looking for more information to supplement what you already know, you might not find it. But as a basic primer on Arab life, culture, and habits, Diwan Baladna is definitely a great place to start.

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