Analysis of Cities of Salt by Abd al-Rahman Munif

Title: Cities of Salt

Author: Abd al-Rahman Munif

Context: Cities of Salt (1987) – Trilogy – Volume 1 is a post colonial novel by Saudi novelist Abd al-Rahman Munif. The author is one of the most highly regarded writers of Arabic literature. The story is about how oil was discovered under a formerly picturesque oasis on Arabian Peninsula, ways in which the people and land got disrupted in the process altering the country’s socio-political scenario.

Synopsis: The entire social and political environment of the Arabic world, changed drastically with the discovery of stores of oil reserves.  The Middle East was thrown in a state of unrest, constantly.  Economic history of the Arabic world and how true colors emerged with effects of discovery of the oil reserves in the region has been traced in the novel by the author.

The major cities in Saudi Arabia which developed in early twentieth century after the oil discovery are represented by two fictional cities named Muran and Harran. Focus is on how on the arrival of three oil engineers from America, transform the desert oasis into one of the most happening metropolis. While they search for oil the indigenous Bedouin people become suspicious and in time strike against the oil company leading to a huge oil fire that destroys the camp. The Sultan of Harran watches how the royalty succumbs to greed and corruption resulting in the natural and political destruction of his homeland. Above all the Arab culture is enriched, deepened and most of all humanized with this wonderful novel by Abd al-Rahman Munif. The author loses his very own citizenship in Saudi Arabia while exposing the Sultanate which grows extremely rich for its survival.

Other works by the Author:

Works in English

1991 – The Trench (Cities of Salt Trilogy, Volume 2)

1993 – Variations on Night and Day  (Cities of Salt Trilogy, Volume 3)

1998 – Endings, London: Quartet Books

1998 – Story of a City: A Childhood in Amman, London: Quartet Books

Works in Arabic


  1. Al-ashjar wa-ghtyal Marzuq
  2. Qissat hubb majusiyya
  3. Sharq al-Mutawassit
  4. Hina tarakna al-jisr
  5. An-nihayat
  6. Sibaq al-masafat at-tawila
  7. Alam bi-la kharait
  8. Mudun al-milh 1: Al-tih
  9. Mudun al-milh 2: Al-ukhdud
  10. Mudun al-milh 3: Taqasim al-layl wan-nahar
  11. Mudun al-milh 4: Al-munbatt
  12. Mudun al-milh 5: Badiyat az-zulmat
  13. Al-an… huna, aw sharq al-Mutawassit marra ukhra
  14. Ard as-sawad 1–3
  15. Umm an-nudhur


1973 – Mabda al-musharaka wa-tamin al-bitrul al-arabi

1975 – Al-bitrul al-arabi, musharaka aw at-tamin

1976 – Tamin al-bitrul al-arabi

1992 – Al-katib wal-manfa – Humum wa-afaq ar-riwaya al-arabiyya

1992 – Ad-dimuqratiyya awwilan ad-dimuqratiyya daiman

1994 – Sirat madina – Amman fi l-arba’inat

1998 – Bayn ath-thaqafa was-siyasa

1998 – Law’at al-ghiyab

2001- Rihlat daw

2001- Dhakira lil-mustaqbal

2004 – “Abdul Rahman Munif”

2006 – “An Arabian master”