The Dove’s Necklace

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca Saudi Arabia

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage, in Mecca. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Last weekend marked the end of Eid al-Adha, when millions of pilgrims gathered in Mecca. In this story, one man makes his way into the Kaaba itself…


This story starts with the city: not the pilgrims, but the women and men who live there all year round and host the world when it comes to town. The author was born there herself. As Raja Alem says, “the city of Mecca is possessing me – I write in a kind of trance, I hear Mecca talking to me.”

Mecca is a hard place for women to live, if they can stay alive at all. The discovery of dead woman’s body sets the story in motion:



And it’s not clear who she is or how she died. To find the answers, we have to go on an often shockingly violent and painful, sensual and passionate journey across Europe, by email and by plane, and back into history to when the three religions of Abraham seemed much closer:


There is a much broader story to tell here that reaches far beyond Mecca’s walls. Some have argued that Raja Alem only received the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for this novel because it was high time for a woman to win. It is indeed high time that more people read Saudi women’s own writing, instead of talking about them, what they cannot do and what they wear. The Dove’s Necklace is translated by Katharine Halls and Adam Talib. If you want to turn Women in Translation Month into WIT year, this could be your next read.

Translator, editor, writer, reader

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Posted in books, gender, translation

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