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Finding Nouf

(Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  8,794 ratings  ·  1,374 reviews
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In a blazing hot desert in Saudia 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
ebook, 316 pages
Published May 6th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Roxanne She has written 2 additional books using the same principal characters.
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,794 ratings  ·  1,374 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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 13, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2015 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
Roman Clodia
** Includes massive spoilers! **

Something greater was crumbling inside him, the wall that held the strength of his beliefs, and it hurt to feel himself weakening, to feel this much sympathy for women like Nouf who felt so trapped by their lives, by the prescriptions of modesty and domesticity that might have suited the Prophet's wives but that didn't suit the women of this world, infected as it was by desires to go to school and travel and work and have ever greater options and appetites. He
Alka Joshi
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this intimate look into the lives of Saudi families. Because Ferraris used her own experience--nine months living with her ex-husband's Saudi-Palestinian family in Jeddah--the narrative felt real and accessible. The author treated the culture with respect and sensitivity so that readers could understand how a pious bedouin and a female medical examiner came together to solve a murder mystery in a land where the carefree mingling of men and women is verbotten. To top it all off, the myste ...more
Mar 03, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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,
Jan 24, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeanette (Again)
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeanette (Again) 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.
Pretty good mystery but it was a little dry (and not because it's set in Saudi Arabia), because the character development was lacking IMO. Maybe the next book in the series will develop them a bit more. I feel that Saudi Arabia as a character was more developed than the humans. The descriptions made me feel like I was there in the intense heat. It's hard to believe, in our current times, that women are still treated so poorly, as second class citizens. I am forever grateful of my freedom to come ...more
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
I read this many years ago, and I remember enjoying it quite a lot
Elizabeth A
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I'd never read a book set in Saudi Arabia before. I can't be sure a mystery is the best introduction. This one does give a glimpse into a certain way of life and for that it is probably better than a travelogue.

Nouf was one daughter in a very wealthy ultra-privileged family. The book opens with Nayir - and others off scene - looking in the desert for her. She is found, of course, and that is when all of the questions begin. It is a good mystery.

The heat and the desert are ever present as is Isl
Vanessa Olson
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
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review to follow
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
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finding Nouf by Zoë Ferraris was a fascinating book that shed a lot of light on Saudi Arabia, particularly gender politics, religion, and propriety.

I lived in the Middle East for two years but I lived in one of the more liberal Muslim countries. I knew next to nothing about Saudi Arabia, beyond the fact that it is the most conservative Muslim country. Finding Nouf was an education of what it means to be a woman living in this country. Beyond not being allowed to drive, women aren’t allowed to le
Julie Christine
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maureen, Elisabeth, Chris
Recommended to Julie Christine 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
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
Dec 17, 2010 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
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't really care if they ever found Nouf.
Book Wormy
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read
#ReadAroundtheWorld #SaudiArabia

This was a 4 star read for me I loved spending time with Nayir al-Sharqi and learning more about life in Saudi Arabia. I enjoyed seeing Nayir grow as a character and begin to realise that while the rich women he knows live a life most would be jealous of they still have to live that life in a cage and for some escaping the cage is the only thing that would make life worth living. By the end of the novel he has gone from believing that women should appreciate their
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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,

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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