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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 714

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  • "The wadi's people were known for their strange mixture of gentleness and obsession. Peaceable and happy, they were always quick to help out and expected little in return, but they were at times prone to laziness and daydreaming" (6). In this excerpt, the author explains what people were like in the wadi before the arrival of American petroleum engineers. They lived peacefully, if a bit aimlessly.
  • "'They certainly didn't come for water—they want something else. But what could they possibly want? What is there in this dry desert besides dust, sand and starvation?'" (29). In this quote, Miteb is speaking to his son about the foreigners who have come to Wadi ai-Uyoun. He can't imagine what they want in such a dry, remote place. Their appearance alarms and confuses him.

  • "The very sight of the foreigners and their constant activity all day, the instruments they carried around, the bags of sand and stones they had amassed after writing in their notebooks and drawing symbols on them, the discussions that lasted from sun­ down until after supper and the writing that followed, the damned questions they asked about dialects, about tribes and their dis­putes, about religion and sects, about the routes, the winds and the rainy seasons—all these caused Miteb's fear to grow day by day that they meant harm to the wadi and the people" (31). Miteb fears the foreigners and senses that their coming will only bring evil. Their ways seem strange and disconcerting to him, and he fears that they will bring harmful changes to the wadi. His premonition is correct.
  • "Neither profuse use of perfumes nor incense burning could get rid of their smell. Ibn Rashed also said that they never went to bed at night without doing some writing—they might have been practicing witchcraft. Often they would stop writing, talk to each other and then go back to writing (44). Ibn Rashed observes the oddities of the foreigners in the wadi. The local people find the Americans' smells and ways odd, which points to the cultural gulf between them.
  • "No one had ever dreamed such people existed: one was short and obese with red hair and another was tall enough to pick dates from the trees. Yet another was as black as night, and there were more-blond and redheaded. They had blue eyes and bodies fat as slaughtered sheep, and their faces inspired curiosity and fear" (67). Even the physical appearance of the Americans frightens people in the wadi, as the local people have never seen people who look like the Americans do. Again, this excerpt emphasizes the cultural divide between the Americans and the local people and...

(The entire section contains 714 words.)

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