The year is 1970, a period of crisis in the Arab world. Twenty-year-old Hisham has left home for the Saudi-Arabian capital Riyadh, where he's enrolled at university to study politics and economics. But this city has more than academic qualifications to offer a man of Hisham's mettle, and he soon discovers a strange underworld of alcohol and prostitution where fear, pleasure and politics merge. Here hospitals prove the richest cruising grounds, the desert is the place for illicit couplings, and now Hisham is spying on the bedroom activities of his next-door-neighbour's wife, who has taken to leaving her door ajar...Meanwhile, Hisham's disillusioned childhood friend Adnan abandons his artistic ambitions in favour of a loftier cause - Islamism. The two friends - who rapidly grow estranged - come to symbolise the opposite extremes of life in a repressive closed society.
Turki al-Hamad is a highly successful author in the Arab world. His novels are highly controversial throughout the Middle East; he is the target of four fatwas (religious edicts) claiming his life. This is the second volume in Turki al-Hamad's explosive Saudi coming-of-age trilogy. The first volume, Adama, was published by Saqi in 2003. The author continues to live in Riyadh and teaches at the American University in Beirut.