Sex and the Citadel

Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World

Publisher: Anchor Canada

If you really want to know a people, start by looking in their bedrooms.
     Since political unrest erupted across the Middle East, all eyes have been on the streets and squares. But for the past five years, Shereen El Feki has been looking at upheaval a little closer to home--in the sexual lives of men and women across the Arab world. The result is an informative, engaging and timely account of a still largely secret aspect of that society.
     Sex, shows El Feki, is a prism that opens up the region's complex social spectrum, from religion and culture to politics and economics. Sexual attitudes and behaviors not only are a reflection of the conditions that led to the recent uprisings but will also be a measure of hard-won reforms in the years to come.


Sex in the Citadel should be celebrated – not least for freeing voices silenced by a mixture of taboo and political repression. It provides crucial oxygen for discussions that will need more airing in the long, conflicted years ahead.”
The Independent

Sex and the Citadel provides a detailed account of a veiled and sensitive aspect of Arab society.”
The Los Angeles Times

“The author is forever open, buoyant, and always willing to share the details of first person encounters. Assertive and undeterred when approaching even the most sensitive or taboo of subjects, Dr. El Feki demonstrates an effortless ability to tell a story, making for a highly readable examination of Arab life.”
The New York Journal of Books

“Mandatory reading for anyone seeking to truly know the Middle East, Sex and the Citadel should knock the doors off assumptions held dear by so many Westerners.”
Booklist, starred review

“A daring new study. El Feki… embarks on her subject with healthy doses of humour and irony… With personal stories bolstered by facts and figures, El Feki looks at the tensions between what is halal (permitted under Islamic law) and haram (forbidden) or zina (downright debauchery). She also discusses sex education, abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and even lingerie and cross-dressing….A surprisingly open, extremely timely examination.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A supremely eye-opening book.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education

“A clear wakeup call.”
Publishers Weekly  

“Her findings are endlessly intriguing. . . . Where this book excels is in locating the territory in which traditional morality collides with the encroaching modern world.”
The Times (UK)
“A remarkable book.”
The Huffington Post
“No one could ever accuse Shereen El Feki of lacking in courage. . . . Sex and the Citadel is a bold, meticulously researched mini Kinsey Report, rich in anecdote and statistics.”
The Spectator (UK)

“[El Feki] is frank, nonjudgmental and unsentimental, eschewing the kind of stagey shockability that might have tempted a lesser writer when dealing with topics as unsavory as female genital mutilation or domestic violence.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Shereen El Feki’s book on sex in the Arabic-speaking world is frequently eye-popping. . . . [Sex and the Citadel] is an invaluable introduction to a topic that is poorly understood, even by Arabs themselves.”
The Telegraph (UK)

“El Feki’s account is deeply sensible and well judged, her approach open and informative rather than illicit and structured and sociological instead of scandalous. . . . Sex and the Citadel wisely prefers statistics to sensationalism.... This is a principled book, robustly educative and illuminating without consenting to the kind of vacant voyeurism that the intimate life veiled by Islam can provoke in unthinking outsiders. It is often a respectful as well as curious book, gently prodding the problems it recognises without censure.”
The Times Higher Education

Sex and the Citadel is informative and well written. It is also hilarious. Frequently irreverent and at times gently sarcastic, as the book’s title suggests, Feki doesn’t allow the serious subject matter to dampen her lively sense of humor. . . . The author’s informal style . . . makes for an absorbing and engaging read. . . . Feki’s book is a riveting read, bound to provide interesting, if inappropriate, dinner table conversation for some time to come.”
The Daily Star

“Shereen El Feki is a brave woman. . . . a fascinating survey of sex that is rich in detail.”
The Economist