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Finding Nouf (Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi #1)

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  5,887 Ratings  ·  1,172 Reviews

In a blazing hot desert in Saudi Arabia, a search party is dispatched to find a missing young woman. Thus begins a novel that offers rare insight into the inner workings of a country in which women must wear the abaya in public or risk denunciation by the religious police; where ancient beliefs, taboos, and customs frequently clash with a fast-moving, technology-driven mod
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published June 20th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 16, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
"A family buries a woman with her back to Mecca only when she carries a baby in her belly, a baby whose face, in death, must be turned in the direction of the Holy Mosque."

When Nayir Sharqi is asked by his friend Othman Shrawi to find his missing sister, Nouf, he had no idea what he is getting into. He knows the Saudi Arabian desert as well as a Bedouin and he knows better than anyone how quickly the heat and dehydration can kill a 16 year old girl.

She lost her camel. To lose your camel in the
Aug 22, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: BooknBlues
This satisfies my fascination with mystery stories set in different cultural contexts. The book is the first in a series of three featuring Palestinian immigrant to Saudi Arabia, Nayir, as an informal investigator. His work as a desert guide leads him to become tasked to help a wealthy friend and customer search for a missing teen-aged sister, Nouf, believed to have fled to the desert with a camel. She turns up dead, strangely from drowning. The medical examiner ignores clues of foul play and la ...more
Aug 31, 2008 Eryka rated it liked it
I loved this book, but for what I think are different reasons than the author intended. Or maybe not. It's a murder mystery as I'm sure you would gather from reading the book jacket. A girl goes missing and is found dead in the desert and some people are guessing foul play. Okay. Great. To me, however, the book is really about Muslim culture. And that's why I loved it. It's an open window, which isn't always available otherwise, to the Muslim culture, beliefs and how devout Muslims feel about th ...more
Aug 13, 2008 Shereen rated it did not like it
I was very excited when I heard a review of this book on NPR as I grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and there are very few novels set in my hometown. However, after reading the book I was extremely disappointed as I did not recognise any of the Jeddah that I know in the book. Jeddah comes to life at night, and that is when the women would be shopping in the malls or open air souks, and not early in the morning before dawn prayers. I laughed at the scene where Katya's sandals start melting in the ...more
It was a good crime story with a little bit of intrigue build in, although the murderer was known from an early stage. Nevertheless, the plight of women received enough attention to make the book an interesting read.

The story was different from the other books I enjoyed about the Middle-Eastern region. As a debut novel it was very good, but needs a little oomph - more drama and suspense - to make it work. There is some stereotypical cliches worked in that could have been avoided. For instance,
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Feb 22, 2009 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Charisse
As you're unraveling the mystery of what happened to Nouf, the author reveals the mysteries of living in a strictly repressive Saudi Arabian society.

Zoe Ferraris has a dual perspective that is helpful in this book. She's an American, so she knows all the things Americans wouldn't understand about the details of Saudi life and culture. And she has the rarer perspective of having once been married to a man of Palestinian-Bedouin heritage. So she lived among these people and has insider knowledge.
Jan 06, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really excellent mystery, set in the unusual setting of Saudi Arabia. Nouf ash-Shrawi, the sixteen year old daughter of a wealthy Saudi family, disappears shortly before her wedding. Desert guide Nayir is asked to bring her back, but when she is found dead he is asked by the family to investigate what happened to her. This leads to him having to work with a woman, Katya Hijazi, which makes him very uncomfortable in the heavily segregated society he lives in. His loyalties, faith and cu ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Yoonmee rated it did not like it
I'm torn between giving this book 1 or 2 stars. I feel as if there should be two reviews.

First review:
This is an interesting murder mystery set in Saudi Arabia. The reader will think they are being given a behind the scenes look into everyday life in Saudi Arabia, which adds to some of the intrigue. Setting aside, the plot encourages reader to continue reading to find out "whodunnit" without resorting to the over the top style of murder mystery that seems really popular these days (you know what
Book Review:

Would it compel you to read a book where the body of brutally disfigured woman is found in the desert? Maybe, maybe not. Would it then compel you to read the book if it was found that the young woman died not of dehydration, but by drowning? Indeed, how is this possible?

Aided by Katya, Nayir is determined to find out what has happend to Nouf. However, in order to do that he must gain acess to the inaccessible: the hidden world of women. Get ready for an intriguing voyage into Saudi r
3.5-3.75 stars. The death of a young Saudi aristocrat is investigated by Nayir, a friend of the family who is a desert guide, and a young woman Katya, betrothed to an adopted brother in the family. Nayir's character is somewhat inconsistent, with strong cultural beliefs about women, who manages to work with Katya in solving the mystery. Katya's character is much better, helping to show the deep gender divide in Saudi culture, and then make herself successful in contravention thereof. The cultura ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Nayir ash-Sharqi is a Palestinian desert guide living in Saudi Arabia who is often mistaken as a Bedouin. His best friend, Othman Shrawi, is the adopted son of a wealthy and influential Saudi family. When Othman's sixteen-year-old sister Nouf goes missing, along with a camel and a ute, Nayir is called upon to help search for her in the desert.

Her body is found ten days later, in a wadi - a dry rivulet that floods when the rains come. Cause of death: drowning. But there are defensive wounds on he
May 13, 2014 Mariam rated it did not like it
The story was very intriguing, with an interesting plot that keeps the reader coming back for more. The imagery involved and the author’s understanding of Saudi Arabian culture was very obvious, and she even used many Arabic words and phrases that are common there. However, as a Muslim, I winced at many of the situations she described, feeling that they were continuations of untrue stereotypes held by others. While the author has a wonderful grasp of Saudi culture, she obviously knows very litt ...more
Elizabeth A
Aug 03, 2014 Elizabeth A rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
You know what occurred to me the other day? It has been way too long since I read a book with camels in it.

What caught my attention about this book is the premise: In a blazing hot desert in Saudi Arabia, a search party is dispatched to find a missing young woman.

I poured myself tall glasses of passion ice tea and settled in for what I hoped would be a great read. Alas, it was not. There is a mystery at the heart of the story, but as far as mysteries go, it was rather light. More interesting we
Aug 26, 2009 Vanessa rated it it was ok
If I could give this 2 and a half stars, that's what it would receive. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. It's a story about a 16 year old Saudi Arabian girl who goes missing and is found dead, the rest of the book deals with solving the reason behind her disappearance and also paints a picture of the underlying oppression felt by the women in that society.
I think my biggest problem with the book is that it just felt way too verbose for such a small story. I realized by the end of t
Kasa Cotugno
CSI: Jeddah.

It would be hard to find two more different cities to compare than Jeddah and Las Vegas except that they both lie in deserts. The reconstruction of a young girl's final days that led to her death involve forensic studies in the restrictive atmosphere of the strict Saudi landscape, presenting an eyewitness account of what life is like in that society. Ferraris, who lived in Arabia in the 1990's, is generous with her details and imaginative in her plotting. The mystery around which the
Jan 31, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Maureen, Elisabeth, Chris
Recommended to Julie by: Charisse
For fans of the mystery/crime genre, you will likely be disappointed by this rather predictable and implausible whodunit. The true mystery and intrigues of this novel are Islam, Saudi Arabia, and the two principal characters' relationships with their culture, their religion, their internal lives and their interactions with each other. The book beautifully displays the confusion, pride, fear and devotion Saudis have toward their land, their social structure and the struggle to maintain integrity ...more
Jun 15, 2013 Debbie rated it really liked it
I really liked this book! For once I'm writing just a quick review but in no way shape or form does the size of my review indicate my feelings towards this book. This was a goodie!
This is a murder mystery that takes place in Saudi Arabia investigated by a Palestinian Bedouin desert guide and a burka covered female medical examiner/lab technician. In the midst of all the laws, culture and nuances of this country this is really a great story, mystery and educator into a place that most may not be
Dec 19, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An "okay" mystery story with quite good characterization and character development. The real, REAL star of the book is the setting: contemporary Saudi Arabia. We are taken to the desert, to the city of Jedda, to workplaces, the marina, modest homes and mansions, and more. The narration occurs mostly in the men's sphere but there is some in the women's as well. It's a fascinating look into this world. The protagonist visits an Aramco compound and talks with several Americans, and these scenes are ...more
Jan 20, 2008 Jeff rated it really liked it
Fantastic book! An editor friend of mine sent me a galley of this book, which will be released in June 2008. I highly recommend this book and urge you to get it the moment it becomes available to the public!

"Finding Nouf" is a spectacular literary mystery about a 16 year old Saudi girl who goes missing and is found dead in the desert outside of Jeddah. The cirmcumstances of her death are investigated by two people -- a religiously conservative male desert guide and a female lab worker -- who bec
Mar 06, 2014 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Jamie Collins
3.5 stars. A murder mystery set in modern day Saudi Arabia. When a runaway teenage girl is found dead, her family tries to cover up a scandal, but two friends of the family are unable to dismiss their suspicions of murder.

This is well written for a first novel. The mystery is unremarkable in itself, but it serves as a framework to describe life in a rigid, repressive society where the sexes are strictly segregated and women must be always escorted and veiled in public.

I often read historical nov
Taylor Kate Brown
Jul 27, 2008 Taylor Kate Brown rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mystery lovers, anyone wanting to get beyond simple ideas of gender issues in the Arab world
Shelves: 2008
I picked it up because of my morbid curiosity about how a western woman who lived in Saudi would write about the place. It's both a murder mystery - worthy of the significant object of the story - a Colombo jacket that the main character buys at the unlikely jacket bazaar in downtown Jeddah, and a mediation about women's lives in the culture of extreme modesty (and some would say oppression) in the country.

I can't decide if Ferrais imparted too much sympathy on the part of her main character, N
Oct 04, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
Recommended to Linda by: Barb
A definite 4.5 thanks to Barb Dalious for sharing this one.

Nouf is a young Saudi girl who drowned in the desert. That is only one part of the mystery. Despite the official "accidental drowning" ruling, one person from her large family hires Nayir ash-Sharqi, a desert guide, to look into her death. That brother also asks his fianceé, Katya Hijazi, to help.

The combination of these two investigators is equally intriguing. He (Nayir) is a traditional Muslim, troubled by the flouting of the Qur'an's
Oct 03, 2008 Marty rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
Actually, I would give this 3.5 stars if I could. It's a mystery set in Saudi Arabia, and while the mystery part was good, the real reason I liked it was reading about life in Saudi Arabia from the perspective of a reasonably nice guy. I have read so many horror stories and had come to see all Saudi men as control-freak monsters. This book was written by an American who was married to a Saudi, and I feel like she gives them a fair shake. It's still clear that it sucks to be a woman there, but I ...more
Apr 01, 2013 Alicen rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
This book is the first in a series about a Saudi Arabian detective and although I have already read #2 and #3 in the series that didn't alter my enjoyment of this book. I really love the way the author weaved together the suspense of the story with cultural information about life in Saudi Arabia. In addition the presence of a prominent female character who is a forensic scientist makes the series particularly enjoyable. Definitively recommended.
Zoe Ferraris makes me appreciate G. Willow Wilson's literary and imaginative talents, as well as her politics and worldview. That said, I'll be reading more of this series (interspersed with re-readings of that blog post about liking problematic media). I need to find out what happens with Nayyir and Katya.
Jul 21, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I enjoyed this book, which introduces the reader to the modern religious culture of Saudi Arabia while also presenting us with a mystery to solve along with the two sleuths, a male desert guide a female forensic lab technician. I think I found the cultural introduction more interesting than the case.
Sigrid Fry-Revere
Dec 11, 2013 Sigrid Fry-Revere rated it really liked it
I almost gave this book five stars. It has all the elements I like: intrigue, cultural insight, and good writing. I could not put it down. I know not every book has to be groundbreaking or earth-shattering, but that is what it takes for me to give a book five stars. I loved this book, but it did not pass the test of having insights that made my spine tingle.
Jan 14, 2010 Mandie rated it it was ok
Didn't really care if they ever found Nouf.
Juliana Philippa
Slow-moving but interesting mystery with wonderfully engaging but subtle main characters

Finding Nouf was an enjoyable read and I'm excited that it's part of a series - definitely look forward to reading the other books featuring Nayir and Katya!

The Setting
I found it really fascinating to read a book set in modern Saudi Arabia and while I obviously have no idea, it did seem like Ferraris knew what she was talking about - she didn't write the setting and surroundings as if from the perspective o
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mystery in Saudi Arabia 5 54 Mar 12, 2014 09:41AM  
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Zoë Ferraris moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. She lived in a conservative Muslim community with her then-husband and his family, a group of Saudi-Palestinians.

In 2006, she completed her MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. Her debut novel, Finding Nouf (published as Night of the Mi'raj in the UK) is now being published in thirty countries. A follow-up novel,
More about Zoë Ferraris...

Other Books in the Series

Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi (3 books)
  • City of Veils (Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi #2)
  • Kingdom of Strangers (Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi #3)

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