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All Strangers Are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World

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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  241 ratings  ·  50 reviews
A lively, often hilarious, and always warm-hearted exploration of Arabic language and culture, guided by a keen-eyed travel writer with twenty years of experience studying Arabic


Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 7th 2018 by The American University in Cairo Press (first published June 14th 2016)
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3.87  · 
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 ·  241 ratings  ·  50 reviews


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Holly S.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A travel memoir set in four areas of the Arabic World--Egypt, the Gulf, Lebanon, and Morocco--All Strangers are Kin explores the complexities of the Arabic language and the challenges of learning it, from Standard Arabic to the spoken Arabic of the street.

As someone who has traveled to all the places mentioned and has studied Arabic for years, I found the book to be a terrific read for anyone with an interest in travel, linguistics, the Arabic language, and the vast variations within the Arabic
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Steven Svymbersky
It is true that the only way to become fluent in a foreign language is to spend time amongst native speakers in their own land and that to truly understand and appreciate the people and culture of another country you need to be able to speak their language. In this book, the author seeks to expand her Arabic studies through sojourns in Egypt, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and Morocco and in the process also finds insight into the places she visits through the differences in way the language has ...more
Monica
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The short: I loved this book.

The long: I can't believe how much I related to the author. We both started studying Arabic in US universities around the same time (very early 90s), rejected academic study of the language for 3ameyya/colloquial, and we share a strong love for Cairo, warts and all. There were several times I felt like I was reading stories I could have written or reading about folks I could have met. She has had some great experiences and I liked her writing style very much. I high
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Beth
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What happens when a middle-aged woman from the US decides to try and master her limited Arabic by travelling around the Middle East to different countries, learning some of the ins and outs of each version of the language? A bit of chaos, a bit of confusion, and an interesting history lesson thrown in. In short, you have 'All Strangers Are Kin'.

This book was a bit of a toss-up for me in regards to the actual reading. The parts where the author emphasized so much of the language were slow and con
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Emily Morrison
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my new favorites. Funny and engaging. I already love Arabic, but this made the language all the more delightful. What a grand way to get a taste of the flavor of so many different Arabic-speaking countries. If you're not an Arabic speaker, this is a great- and needed- intro to a part of the world that sadly evokes fear in many Westerners. If you have ever been a student of Arabic, you'll get a kick out of her descriptions!
Dave
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fun and highly informative tour through several stops in the Arab-speaking world. O'Neill introduces us to many compelling characters in Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, and Morocco. Along the way she provides plenty of insight into (transliterated) Arabic that was fascinating even for those of us who know no Arabic.

O'Neill's journey is personal as well, and we learn a lot about her through some moving passages about her family, her struggles with Arabic, and her navigation through the Arabic-speaking
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Kateri
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came to this book through the NPR podcast The World in Words, and I'm so glad I read it. To a language nerd, the heartfelt hand-wringing over accuracy vs. connection is both familiar and delightful. The descriptions of popular culture, traditional language, and human connection in Arab cities are vivid and warm. I only wish it was available in audio so I'd know how to properly say many of the phrases I read.
Linda
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. Her journey to discover the nuances of a foreign language and become fluent in a language with as rich a history as Arabic is wonderful. The humor, the danger and the overall insights provided into the Muslim culture through its language is fascinating. If you are a word nerd as I am, you will be enthralled and amazed by zora's adventures.
Mary
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a most unusual, beautifully written, memoir. At the age of 40, the author's desire to learn more about the Arabic language led to her taking a year-long trip to four different Arabic-speaking countries. Highly recommended!
Sarah
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK, I'm a language nerd. I love learning about different languages and their history. Zora tells a fascinating story from a perspective rarely explored when visiting the Middle East. Very refreshing and entertaining.
Ali Crain
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture-travel
I really enjoyed reading about the authors adventures and misadventures in learning Arabic and different dialects. As someone living in Morocco and struggling daily with Darija, this was comforting. I hope I can take the advice of just winging it but also asking clarifying questions when necessary
Grass monster
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been wanting to read this book for a whille. For one, i love Travel Memoirs and two, i have an interest in the Arabic language.
This covers Zora O'Neill's travels to Egypt, United Arabic Emirates, Lebanon and Morocco.
Zora starts in Egypt, where the dialect is very different from words that are used in other Arabic dialects. Next she travels to the United Arabic Emirates, where they are very wealthy and like to make it known. Maids attend to the homes and there is an awful lot of the sex t
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Kate
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tour through Arabic dialects: from Egypt to the Arabian Peninsula to Lebanon and finally ending in Morocco. The author had undertaken a trip to these parts to learn colloquial Arabic, the languages spoken on the streets rather than the formal Arabic, Fusha.

For me it was listening to a story told about places I know of, some I'd been to and now miss, and some I knew less of and had never been to but have had some little connections, stories inside my mind. So it
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Ashley
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All Strangers Are Kin is a fascinating book about travel, as well as the logistics of the Arabic language. Throughout the memoir, the reader comes to understand Zora and why she is motivated to travel the world. Zora discusses the nuances of Arabic and its many dialects and colloquialisms. By the end of the book, the reader understands that, through her travels, Zora not only better understands the Arabic language, but now better understands the breadth of the human experience.

As someone who has
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Jodi
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! O'Neill expressed the same frustrations and challenges that I have gone through trying to learn Arabic, and yet interwoven are the warm people she dares herself to meet, as she travels alone throughout the Middle East. Very brave, and very insightful!
Stacy
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected Zora's "grand tour through the Middle East" would, for the most part, sweep the reader up with cultural experiences peppered with the odd reference to language and vocabulary. But what a delight that the converse was true. Zora does recount her experiences but her real skill lies in her ability to delve surprisingly deep into the nuances of the language. Her frustration between the classical and popular languages had me equally disheartened until she abruptly turned the whole matter o ...more
Janet
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. The author tells the story of her travels in 4 different areas of the Arab world in order to study Arabic and the dialects spoken in these regions. She had studied Arabic in college and was now wanting to learn more about this fascinating language. Her travels are interesting but also of interest is what she learns about the language and its grammar and usage in these various regions. She first goes to Egypt, then to Dubai, next to Lebanon and finally to Morocco. There is a lot ...more
Mary Stewart
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zora is a friend of mine and she never ceases to amaze me. This memoir is very conversational and funny and really takes you along for the ride on her adventures; so much so that at times I found myself wanting to say: "No Zora! Don't go with that person. What are you thinking?" It is deliberately and refreshingly anti-political and just presents the people she has met as ordinary people who happen to speak and pray differently from myself. What a joy!
Kim
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a language teacher and learner, I enjoy reading about other people's experiences with studying foreign languages. Who knew there were several variations of Arabic? This woman's experience was like a learner of English going to the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in one year to learn to speak English. How confusing would all the slang be? If you like languages, this is a very fun book.
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
It shouldn’t have taken me this long , I just had no reading time. I really loved this book. In some ways her journey with Arabic is mine with Spanish or Japanese. Some words are just us. I love how her journey came full circle with an understanding that language learning doesn’t need to be perfect as well as bringing her parents back with her.
Gunter Nitsch
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author describes a totally different world I knew nothing about. Fascinating book! I couldn't put it down!
Katharine Rudzitis
Makes you want to travel (and take a few language classes)! I liked he combination of word lessons and anecdotes.
Garnette
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about the Arabic language and its different expressions throughout the Arab world. Knowing next to nothing about Arabic myself, I found the information fascinating, although sometimes I got bogged down in the details. Different countries speak different dialects, so different from one another that they are mutually incomprehensible, different languages, really. But they’re all united in the use of Arabic script and by a macro language, literary Arabic. It reminded me of China, whe ...more
Cheryl Armstrong
A freelance travel writer, Zora O'Neill spent a year traveling in Arabic speaking countries immersing herself in the language she loves, hoping to become fluent. She was surprised to find no single, official version of the spoken language exists; each country has its own dialects. I find this premise ridiculous. I enjoyed the first third of this book, enjoyed the author's observations about learning a language, visiting each 'new' country, becoming acquainted with customs, taking some risks. But ...more
Debby
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book got a bit lighter when the author gets to the Morocco chapter ,but until then I kept reading and thinking for what reader did she write this book ? It was not intend for the linguist , did it? For the American public ? showing her ways of thinking and the differences in the places she has been to during 2012 ?
I am glad all her travels ended well and safe .As the Middle East politics is a constant changing and some of the things she could do then would be quite daring and dangerous now .
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Jacquie
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, language
If you have an even passing interest in Arabic or Arabic speaking countries it is worth pushing through the duller parts of this book. The exploration of the various areas and dialects was really eye-opening.
Ian McGregor
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this. Only downside is that on the Nook version I couldn't see the Arabic script she uses in the printed version, but otherwise this was a fun read
Karolyn
The most interesting parts discussed the Arabic language and the different Arabic speakers the author met. The dull parts were the stormy emotions of the author over 30 years of her study.
Jaylani Adam
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like this book because it helps how Arabic language is spoken in different nations of the Arab world.
Ellen
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A travelogue with a language bent and an ear for Arabic. If you're learning the language, it makes a neat compliment.
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I'm a travel and food writer, with a particular interest in languages and traditional cuisine.

I grew up in New Mexico, and now live in Astoria, Queens, in NYC. I chose the neighborhood because I hear so many different languages spoken in the streets, and I can buy fresh produce 24 hours a day.

For years, my main gig was writing travel guides. It has always been a pleasure to give a great restaurant
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