Free «The Critical Analysis of the Novel “Cities of Salt”» Essay Sample

Nowadays, the impact of economic factors is overwhelming. Even culture cannot withstand its influence, and this tendency is observed all around the world. It seems especially relevant to Arab countries because their current and past lifestyles are entirely different. Moreover, the transition was not voluntary but was associated with a dominance of economic over traditional cultural values. The novel Cities of Salt (1987) by Abdul R. Munif presents a unique description and examination of this transition and risks associated with this process. It seems that this novel positions itself as a social and cultural critique because it compares several forms of social and economic organization and shows that “westernization” is not as positive as it is generally assumed.

The Main Theses of Abdul Rahman Munif’s Novel “Cities of Salt”

Transformation of Society Munif illustrates the profound changes in a desert society after the discovery of oil, highlighting the shift from traditional ways to modernization influenced by American oil engineers.
Cultural Displacement The novel portrays the displacement and discontent of the indigenous Bedouin people as their environment and societal structures are drastically altered by foreign intervention and industrialization.
Colonialism and Wealth It explores the themes of colonialism and the impact of wealth generated from oil, examining how global interests can conflict with and overpower local rural communities.
Environmental Impact The narrative also reflects on the environmental degradation that accompanies oil extraction and the loss of the untouched beauty of the desert.
Political Commentary Through the story, Munif offers a critique of the political dynamics and the socio-economic upheaval brought about by the oil boom in the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia before Oil

Arab countries are characterized by their unique culture and worldview. Although they are very different from the western nations, they served the interests of the local population in the best possible way.

Calculate the cost of essay


Title of your paper
Type of service
Type of assignment
Academic Level
Number of pages

Before the discovery of oil, Saudi Arabia was a land of stark contrasts, where the vast and arid expanses of the desert met the vibrant culture of its nomadic inhabitants. The economy was primarily based on subsistence agriculture, with date palm cultivation and camel herding being the mainstays for the Bedouin tribes. The coastal regions engaged in fishing and pearl diving, while the holy cities of Mecca and Medina thrived on the revenue from pilgrims performing the Hajj. Abdelrahman Munif’s “Cities of Salt,” his first novel, captures this era with poignant clarity, depicting a society on the cusp of monumental change. The narrative weaves through the lives of those who would soon witness the transformation of their homeland from a traditional, insular world into a pivotal player on the global stage, propelled by the discovery and exploitation of its vast oil reserves.

However, the discovery of oil has changed the situation entirely. Additional economic interests emerged. The author shows that foreigners began changing the traditional state of affairs: “The Americans told them that the dismissal of the workers was a strictly “routine” measure … there was no special significance to it” (Munif, 1987, p. 584). Although it caused some opposition among the local population, the expected financial benefits were as substantial as they were able to corrupt a fraction of people. As a result, the interests of those people who desired to maintain their previous lifestyle were completely neglected. Some people had to leave their homes in order to enable oil production. The social situation has completely changed.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Takes Place

“Cities of Salt” is set during a transformative period in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly reflecting the changes in the 1930s. Here are some historical events that coincide with the timeline of the first novel:

  1. Discovery of Oil: The 1930s marked the discovery of oil in the Arabian Peninsula, which would eventually revolutionize the region’s economy and geopolitics.
  2. Formation of Saudi Arabia: In 1932, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was officially formed, uniting the four regions of Hejaz, Najd, and their dependencies under King Abdulaziz Al Saud.
  3. Great Depression: The global economic downturn known as the Great Depression affected economies worldwide, including those in the Middle East.
  4. Rise of Infrastructure: The period saw the beginning of infrastructure development in the region, with the construction of roads, airports, and oil facilities.
  5. Socio-Political Shifts: The era was characterized by significant socio-political shifts as traditional tribal societies began to confront the realities of modern statehood and international relations.

Although a number of new rich cities emerged, the author explains that it is necessary to analyze these changes further. Moreover, it should be also noted that material wealth is not the indicator of happiness, especially in Arab countries. The main problem is that these Munifs cities and the entire social system are not sustainable. They exist only due to the existence of oil and corresponding financial interests. In the absence of oil, the entire system will cease to exist.

Benefit from Our Service: Save 25%

Along with the first order offer - 15% discount, you save extra 10% since we provide 300 words/page instead of 275 words/page


Therefore, the author does not consider these changes to be positive or desirable for Arab countries. Their sustainable and cultural development is substituted for short-term economic gains based on the oil production. The author successfully supports his interpretation of events concentrating on the lives of ordinary people. The examples of unprecedented violence became usual for Arab countries. Moreover, the rights of Arab workers were not recognized. Any of their attempts to enjoy at least basic liberties resulted in new acts of violence. As a result, this “progress” was achieved due to the high level of exploitation and discrimination of some fractions of the Arab population. The segregation of the camps also shows that the rights and interests of Arab people were not respected. The exploitative forms of production were established for obtaining the maximum amount of short-term gains from the oil production. It seems that Munif disapproves and criticizes such changes and social dynamics.

VIP Services

Extended revision period


SMS notification of the order status


Get order proofread by editor


Get order prepared by top 30 writers


Get a full PDF plagiarism report


Get VIP support

VIP Service
package $23.2320% off

VIP Service
package $23.23

Impact of Social Transformation on Abdelrahman Munifs Cities

His approach is correct because the only way to make reasonable and well-grounded conclusions is to evaluate the impact of social transformation on all members of society. No discrimination or violence can justify any increase in aggregate wealth. Happiness of different people cannot be compared, and any aggregations cannot allow establishing the just social system. Munif’s conclusions and analysis seem to be very close to those of Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov (2002). Both authors show that the modernization of their countries is much more complex than it is generally recognized. This modernization can be observed not only in an economic sphere but a cultural one. Both authors believe that the introduction of these new elements is negative for traditional national values.

The Impact of Social Transformation on Abdelrahman Munif’s “Cities of Salt”

  • Ecological Destruction: The first novel depicts the environmental devastation caused by oil extraction, which leads to the loss of traditional ways of life and the natural beauty of the desert.
  • Economic Disparities: The influx of wealth from oil creates stark economic disparities, dividing society into beneficiaries of the oil boom and those who are marginalized.
  • Cultural Erosion: Traditional architecture and urban fabric, which reflected ecological harmony, are replaced by foreign constructions that do not resonate with the local identity.•
  • Political Upheaval: The narrative suggests that the interference of American oil interests in the Gulf region contributed to the emergence of Islamic authoritarianism and political conflicts.
  • Social Stratification: The once egalitarian community is transformed into a capitalist society, leading to a chasm between the rich and the poor.
  • Identity Crisis: The imposed urban plans and distorted architectural identity reflect the new capitalist and authoritarian nature of the regime, causing an identity crisis among the inhabitants.

The overall cultural standards tend to decline, and authors demonstrate those areas that prove their position. Although Munif does not explicitly refer to any specific country or historical period, it is clear that he analyzes the situation in Saudi Arabia in the second half of the 20th century. This social and cultural analysis is highly relevant not only for Arab countries but the rest of the world, as well. All countries and individual should respect the existing diversity of mankind. All people have different interests and preferences, and it is incorrect to evaluate the lifestyle of some nations from the perspective of others.

Book The Best Top Expert at our service

Your order will be assigned to the most experienced writer in the relevant discipline. The highly demanded expert, one of our top-30 writers with the highest rate among the customers.

Hire a TOP Writer for $4.40

Although the traditional values of Arab countries seem to be strange and irrational for Western people, they are the adequate representation of their internal world. Another problem is the evaluation of future prospects of Arab countries. The traditional Western appraisement is such that Arab countries will enjoy much more opportunities under the new system. Therefore, their standards of living and overall happiness will increase. They evaluate all these changes as highly positive for Arab people. However, Munif addresses this issue from several micro perspectives and demonstrates that the lives of numerous people have not improved. This analysis may also be extended to the future. As this new development is unsustainable, the entire Arab civilization experiences substantial threats.

Modernity, and the Character of Abdelrahman Munifs Cities

The concept of modernity in Abdelrahman Munif’s “Cities of Salt” is deeply intertwined with the characters and the transformation of Munifs  cities.

VIP Support VIP support ensures that your enquiries will be answered immediately by our Support Team. Extra attention is guaranteed.

Hire a VIP Support for $9.99

Essence of modernity as depicted through the characters and the urban landscape:

  • Miteb Al-Hathal: Represents the resistance to modernity and the loss of traditional values. His departure from Wadi Al-Uyoun symbolizes the retreat of the old ways before the onslaught of change.
  • Ibn Rashed: Embodies the embrace of modernity and cooperation with American oil interests. His character is pivotal in the transition of the society towards a new, oil-driven economy.
  • Emir Khaled al-Mishari: Fascinated by Western technology, he becomes a symbol of the seduction of modernity and its impact on local leadership.
  • Abdu Muhammad: His obsession with Western images and lust for an American woman reflects the cultural influence of modernity on personal desires and behaviors.
  • Muffadi al-Jeddan: A traditional healer whose murder signifies the clash between the old and the new, and the often violent suppression of traditional practices in the face of modernization.
  • The Emir: His wonder at modern technology, such as the stethoscope, juxtaposed with his indifference to his people’s suffering, illustrates the superficial allure of modernity at the expense of social responsibility.
  • Ibn Naffeh: A devout Muslim who sees the destruction of the wadi and the construction of Harran as a desecration by ‘infidels’, representing the religious and moral challenges posed by modernity.

The author believes that it is impossible to restore the traditional Arab worldview. The production of oil has strongly changed the entire situation. The only new criterion of success is profits. If some measures lead to higher revenues, people will pursue them. They are not interested in the rights of others. On the contrary, they are ready to violate these rights if it is beneficial from an economic point of view. This situation is very different from a traditional pattern typical for Arab people.

Affiliate Program: Earn 10%

from all orders made by people you bring!

Your people also get 17% discount for their first order

Join now

Munif suggests that these changes cannot be reversed, and they have fundamentally changed the essence of human interactions. If people use monetary units as the standard of happiness they will not be able to abandon these principles in the future. These changes in people’s understanding of reality cannot be neutralized by any institutional or social reforms. Abdelrahman munifs cities may face additional difficulties in the future because oil and other resources are not unlimited. Any country cannot reach a sustainable development if it relies exclusively on some natural resources. The main factor that may allow reaching the desirable results is the national culture. It supports the entire population even during the most difficult periods of history.


As modern Arab countries abandoned their traditional worldview, they would not have any spiritual support during future crises. Moreover, the Arab population tends to become highly segregated. Some people believe that their success if possible only due to the exploitation of others. Consequently, the area for mutually beneficial cooperation tends to decline significantly. It may be concluded that Munif’s novel should be considered as an example of social and cultural critique. The author effectively compares two cultures and lifestyles. He also explains the foundational economic reasons for the observed transformation. His overall evaluation of this process is highly negative as he recognizes the presence of a large number of risks and threats. Therefore, he tries to affect the readers’ perception of this situation as well as prevent the occurrence of similar situations in the future. It seems that this novel is even more relevant for people in the 21st century as it shows that societies that exist only due to their short-term economic interests are unsustainable.

Essay Samples

  • Preparing Orders


    Preparing Orders

  • Active Writers


    Active Writers

  • Positive Feedback


    Positive Feedback

  • Support Agents


    Support Agents

FREE Extras:

  • FREE revision (within 2 days)
  • FREE title page
  • FREE bibliography
  • FREE outline (on request)
  • FREE e-mail delivery
  • FREE formatting

We Guarantee:

  • Quality research and writing
  • 24/7/365 Live support
  • MA, BA, and PhD degree writers
  • 100% Confidentiality
  • No hidden charges
  • Never resold works
  • Complete authenticity

Paper Format:

  • 12 pt. Times New Roman
  • Double-spaced/Single-spaced papers
  • 1 inch margins
  • Any citation style
  • Up-to-date sources only
  • Fully referenced papers