In an unnamed Middle Eastern city, four women from different social and cultural backgrounds tell their story. There is Suha, an educated Lebanese woman brought to the desert by her husband; Tamr, who must fight against male rule to educate herself; Suzanne, captivated by the men and the mystery of the Arabian desert; and Nur, in fierce pursuit of lovers (male and female) and foreign adventures - but her husband has her passport. All four women struggle in a society where women cannot drive a car, walk in the streets unveiled, or travel without male permission. It is a society where sex, due to its constraints, becomes an obsession. These women are treated to every luxury except that which they truly desire - freedom.
Hanan al-Shaykh is one of the contemporary Arab world's most acclaimed writers. She was born in Lebanon and brought up in Beirut, before going to Cairo to receive her education. She was a successful journalist in Beirut, then later lived in the Arabian Gulf, before moving to London. She is the author of the collection I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops and her novels include The Story of Zahra, Women of Sand and Myrrh, Beirut Blues and, most recently, Only in London, which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. She lives in London.