The Book Smuggler

Omaima Al-Khamis
Translated by Sarah Enany


In the epic fashion of the great Arab explorers and travel writers of the Middle Ages, scribe and bookworm Mazid al-Hanafi narrates this journey from his remote village in the Arabian Desert. Dreaming of grand libraries, his passion for the written word draws him into a secret society of book smugglers and into the famed cultural capitals of the period―Baghdad, Jerusalem, Cairo, Granada, and Cordoba.

He discovers a dangerous new world of ideas and experiences the cultural diversity of the Islamic Golden Age, its sects, philosophical schools, wars, and ways of life.

Omaima Al-Khamis’s magical storytelling and her vivid descriptions of time and place trace a route through ancient cities and cultures and immerse us in a distant era, uncovering the intellectual debates and struggles which continue to rage today.


"An exercise in exquisite language"—The National

“Extraordinary. . . filled with vivid descriptions, incredibly detailed history and a vibrant lightness. . . . Through her perfectly paced, patiently illuminating tale, Al-Khamis pays homage to a deep-rooted history, one that is tense and joyful, in which the passion of men and women outweighs the fear of the time and those who want to control thoughts and lives.”—Manal Shakir, Arab News

"This deeply informed view of the medieval Islamic world will absorb readers of serious historical fiction, and knowledge lovers like Mazid."—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal



Omaima Al-Khamis

Omaima Al-Khamis was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1966. A prolific writer, columnist, critic, social reformer, and women’s rights activist, she has published novels, short-story collections, opinion pieces, and children's books. 'The Book Smuggler,' her fourth novel, won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, and was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, both under the title, Masra al-gharaniq fi mudun al-aqiq (Voyage of the Cranes over the Agate Cities.) It is her English language publishing debut. She lives in Riyadh with her husband, two sons, and daughter.

Sarah Enany is a literary translator and a professor in the English Department of Cairo University.

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  • April 10th 2021
  • $18.95 / £12.99 / LE300
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781617979989

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