The Shaykh of Shaykhs MOBI ´ The Shaykh eBook æ

Shaykh Mithqal al Fayiz's life spanned a period of dramatic transformation in the Middle East Born in the 1880s during a time of rapid modernization across the Ottoman Empire Mithqal led his tribe through World War I the development and decline of colonial rule and founding of Jordan the establishment of the state of Israel and the Arab Israeli conflict that ensued and the rise of pan Arabism As Mithqal navigated regional politics over the decades he redefined the modern role of the shaykhIn following Mithqal's remarkable life this book explores tribal leadership in the modern Middle East generally The support of Mithqal's tribe to the Jordanian Hashemite regime extends back to the creation of Jordan in 1921 and has characterized its political system ever since The long standing alliances between tribal elites and the royal family explain to a large extent the extraordinary resilience of Hashemite rule in Jordan and the country's relative stability Mithqal al Fayiz's life and work as a shaykh offer a notable individual story as well as a unique window into the history society and politics of Jordan


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    I was initially a bit hesitant about reading this book Even though the topic seemed interesting I thought the cover was a bit gimmicky yes I sometimes judge books by their covers so I decided to do a little bit of research into the author to help me decide An author's credentials don't always say much about the quality of a book so the fact that the author is a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University with a PhD from Oxford University wasn't really what convinced me that the book was worth a try The fact that the book was published by Stanford University Press didn't necessarily give me high hopes either but at least I was able surmise from this that I wouldn't be in for a travel diary in the guise of a history book that would eventually turn into a journey towards “self discovery” which is a thread that can find its way into a surprisingly vast range of topics The fact that the author had some support from professors Eugene Rogan and Asher Susser and that the book was written with the full cooperation of Shaykh Mithqal al Fayiz's family as well as with the approval from the Jordanian royal family did make me feel slightly optimistic and curious about the book thoughI should start by saying that “The Shaykh of Shaykhs” is not just a gimmicky title as I initially mistook it for it's an actual title given to shaykhs a translation of “shaykh al mashayikh” which is perhaps a good analogy for my experience with the book it turned out to be a lot serious than the title and cover had lead me to believe It's not only an incredibly informative book but an engaging one too – the biography angle made the historic facts and details a lot easier to remember and connect which is something I often struggle with with many other serious history books I thought the book did a great job of giving a quick basic summary of the history of Jordan which was necessary for someone like myself with little prior knowledge on the topic and providing an intimate look into the complex public and private life of shaykh Mithqal and using his story as a way to give a general insight into tribal life and the dramatic transformations that Jordan went through during his lifetime from his birth in the 1880s to his death in 1967I personally found the last 3 chapters to be the most entertaining they focus on Mithqal's personal life his relationships his responsibilities and obligations as a shaykh possible motives for various political actions etc Chapter 5 was particularly interesting and revealing of Mithqal's psyche it dealt with the nomads' crisis in the 1930s and Mithqal's desperate courting of the Zionist movement in Palestine in the 1930s in an attempt to relieve some of his economic strains and to use as leverage in his negotiations with other parties The book reveals an interesting complex character who could be warm kind and affectionate eg personally checking up on his foreign guest writer William Seabrook in the middle of a cold night taking him a quilt and “tucking him in” to make sure he was warm enough but also showed his darker side eg on one occasion beating his wife “with a whip until she bled” Although many of his political strategies were those of a cold calculating tactician and opportunist with personaltribal motives rather than any ideological ones he also proved at times to be sentimental enough to maintain long lasting bonds and friendships even when they didn't necessarily suit him all the time eg his friendship with Aharon Cohen the secretary of the Arab Bureau of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department in the early 1930s perhaps his success was partially due to the fact that he understood that these two seemingly contradictory sides to his personality didn't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive One of the most memorable little stories in the book was one that the author obtained through interviews with Aharon Cohen's children which I thought reflected Mithqal's personality really well or at least my impression of it late one night Cohen returns home with Mithqal who fancies some bean soup Cohen's wife reluctantly obliges and the next day the Cohens discover that “Mithqal had left a £5 note—almost the equivalent of Cohen’s monthly salary A few days later over a sack full of beans arrived from Transjordan The family saw the money as thanks for their hospitality and the beans as a friendly hint that bean soup should be made with black beans not red ones Alternatively these gestures may well have been subtle criticisms of his hosts Mithqal might have been suggesting to the Cohens that they had made him feel like a client rather than a welcome guest and that the soup was somehow inadequate perhaps because of the reluctant spirit in which it had been prepared” Mithqal's rise to power and his ability to hold onto it by adapting to change and successfully navigating regional politics effectively redefining the modern role of a shaykh and thus securing his family's prominent position in Jordanian society and politics which it maintains to this day not only makes for an entertaining personal story but also offers a unique insight not only into the history of Jordanian society but also its current socio political landscape the author attributes the the country's relative stability and the resilience of the Jordanian Hashemite regime to the long standing alliances formed between the royal family and the tribal elites – which makes this a great book for both a casual reader like myself as well as anyone interested in both past and present Middle Eastern politics in general