Posted by: koolwine | May 8, 2014

United Arab Emirates: The Sand Fish

The Sand Fish by Maha Gargash

Noora’s brother marries her off to a to a wealthy, older man who requires a third wife to conceive a child for him. Feisty Noora only has eyes for her husband’s handsome servant, and the boldness to act on her feelings. 

Country Focus: United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The Sand Fish
By Maha Gargash
Published by Harper, 2009.
361 pgs.

Genre: Fiction
Time period:

Notes: Born in Dubai, Gargash has directed numerous television documentaries about Emerati society. The Sand Fish is her first novel.

World Lit Up Rating:
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and 5 books = lit up)
Gargash’s strength lies in creating light drama between her characters. She has produced a respectable, if not remarkable, family drama/forbidden romance. She falls short in smoothly incorporating the societal, historical, and natural facets of the UAE. The pearl diving, the desert, and even the sand fish feel shortchanged.  


Maha Gargash

Maha Gargash

“When the heart takes you away, you do stupid things,” Jassem said. He seemed to be talking to himself as he paced the six steps to one wall and back again. “You talk, say things you don’t want to say.” He stopped in the the middle of the room and pointed his finger at Noora. “From now on, when I look at you, I want you to close your eyes. You have got witches brew in them.”

“I…” She was about to tell him it wasn’t true, when he yanked off his spectacles. He had never done that before (even when he was performing his duty). She watched him squint and draw closer to her. His shadow loomed high above him. She must have been a blur to him, but to Noora his face was as transparent as the steam of simmering water. The warmth of their nights had evaporated just like that.

“I rescued you from poverty. Never forget that,” he said. “I have given you so much that you should be kissing my feet, not making me speak worthless talk.”

“I don’t. I—”

“That witch said there would be a child. But there is nothing. Lateefa was right. What have you given me? What is your worth in the end?”


Keep Reading!

Emerati writers like Sara al-Jarwan and Noura al-Noman need to be translated. Titles edited and written by westerners about the UAE are included below.


  1. I found a texture in Gargash’s landscape descriptions that could be nothing short of realism–the life of the desert before oil, before electricity, before air conditioning, before autos, the life of herdsmen and fisherman–a perilous existence. Compelling landscape texture!


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