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eigHT From Tourism to Terrorism It seems that an Arab man can now get on the cover of a romance novel in the United States almost more easily than he can get past airport security. cHrisTy MccullougH, “deserT HearTs” I n Chapter 6, I made the point that the gradual revival of interest in the modern sheik romance novel beginning in the 1970s had less to do with events in the Middle East than with a confluence of other factors: a desire for alpha male heroes in Harlequin Mills & Boon romance novels; gradually changing social mores regarding multicultural , interracial relationships from the late 1960s onward; and an “armchair tourist” desire to read about travel to exotic lands and Oriental cultures. In this chapter, I focus on significant ancillary themes in the sheik romance novel since the 1970s. I discuss travel and tourism in the sheik novel: the representation of exotic space and place and the gradual “Disneyfication” of the Middle East that occurred by the end of the twentieth century. I then examine the introduction of new discourses about development, modernization, nation building, and—after September 11, 2001—terrorism. Although the revival of the sheik romance novel was not a direct response to Middle Eastern affairs, and despite the prevalence of a Disneyfied, “Arabian Nights” East, certain novelists have used the medium to mount subtle critiques of British and American foreign policies in the Middle East. Like its 1920s predecessor, the revived sheik romance novel was initially grounded in the real, if Orientalized, Middle East. North Africa was a popular setting for desert romance novels in the 1970s and 1980s. Nerina « 242 » Desert Passions Hilliard’s The Land of the Sun (1976) was set in Algeria, while Violet Winspear ’s Tawny Sands (1970) and The Burning Sands (1976), and Margaret Pargeter’s The Jewelled Caftan (1978), were set in Morocco. Barbara Faith, the only American novelist apart from Iris Johansen writing contemporary desert romances in the 1980s, also set two of her novels in Morocco: Bedouin Bride (1984) and Flower of the Desert (1988). Interest began to move from North Africa to the Arabian peninsula by the 1980s, with Penny Jordan’s Falcon’s Prey (1981) set in Kuwait, and Mary Lyon’s Escape from the Harem (1986) set in the fictional state of Dhoman, but clearly modeled on an amalgam of Gulf states. Many varied and sometimes improbable reasons take these heroines out to the Middle East, but their delight and absorption in travel is constant in these novels. Indeed, like many of Hilliard’s other 1950s romances, The Land of the Sun (1976) is taken up with a delight in tourism.The novel describes carefully the passage to Algiers: the heroine, her fiancé, and his sister must take a liner to Marseille before their onward journey to Algiers. Tourist ports and towns are described along with the tourists’ expectations about their various destinations. Touggourt is represented as the fulfillment of tourist dreams of the Orient: “Here were some of the things she had read about . . . palm trees, the curved beauty of a minaret against a brazen blue sky, the silk robes of some desert sheik brushing the tattered and filthy rags of a beggar, every variety of impression one could hope for” (22). There are tourist brochure descriptions of “fabulous El Golea with its fountains, palms and cypresses” and of an exotic and spectacular camel race “like a scene from some Arabian film” (68). Yet travel through Algeria also pricks conventional romantic ideas about North Africa. The characters do not simply encounter hot desert towns and wind-swept sands, but also, cold mountains, “good roads,” and “impressive” tunnels and railway bridges that represent the inexorable march of modernization and development in the region. Reassuringly, however, they find that “simple and charming Tuareg customs, such as the drinking of strong and sweet peppermint-scented tea” (31) are retained. The novel instructs readers on how to partake in this ritual: You will usually be offered three cups of tea. Always drink them. To refuse the second or third would be to cast a slur on the teamaker and, indirectly, the hospitality received, but . . . if you are ever offered a fourth, it means you have overstayed your welcome. You very politely get up and leave. (31) froM TourisM To TerrorisM « 243 » These tidbits of information about foreign customs, scattered throughout the romance, provide the “authenticity” expected by readers, serving to anchor the fabulous romance to an exotic but “real” destination. As Billie...


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