Environmental themes in Gulf literature: Examining how writers from the Gulf region have addressed environmental issues and their impact on society through their works.


The Gulf region, famously known for its oil-rich economy and vibrant cultural heritage, is a hub of diverse literary works that offer insights into the societal and environmental challenges faced by this region. With a rapidly growing population and an economy heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry, the Gulf nations have faced significant environmental issues that have shaped the narratives of many writers from the region. In this article, we will look closely at the environmental themes present in Gulf literature, examining how writers have addressed these issues and their impact on society through their works.

One of the most prevalent environmental themes in Gulf literature is the impact of the oil and gas industry on the environment. The discovery and exploitation of vast oil reserves in the Gulf region have brought immense wealth and prosperity to the nations. However, it has also led to significant environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, soil contamination, and even seismic activity. Through their writings, Gulf authors have shed light on the detrimental effects of oil production on the environment and its consequences for both the present and the future.

For instance, in her novel “The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai,” Maha Gargash explores the devastating effects of the construction boom in Dubai fueled by the oil industry. The story follows the protagonist, Noora, who comes from a family of pearl divers but is forced to work in an upscale hotel built on their ancestral land. As she witnesses the rapid destruction of the environment, Noora is torn between her traditional values and the temptations of modern living, leading to a powerful commentary on the destructive consequences of unchecked development.

Another essential theme found in Gulf literature is the preservation of traditional and cultural practices in the face of modernization and urbanization. With the rapid growth of cities and the influx of Western ideologies, traditional lifestyles and practices in the Gulf region are increasingly at risk of being lost. Authors such as Laila Al-Atrash and Ibrahim Essa address this theme in their works, highlighting the importance of preserving the environment and traditional ways of life.

In “Once Two Heeartbeats,” Laila Al-Atrash portrays the impact of modernization on traditional Gulf society by comparing the lives of two women from different generations – one rooted in tradition, and the other caught up in the glitz and glamour of modern Dubai. The novel beautifully captures the struggle between tradition and modernity, emphasizing the need to find a balance between progress and preservation.

Writers from the Gulf region also explore the consequences of climate change and global warming through their works. With the Gulf region being one of the areas most affected by climate change, authors have used literature as a platform to raise awareness and urge society to take action. In “Hatha Al-Ghubar,” Omani author Jokha Alharthi brilliantly weaves a story that reflects on the physical and emotional impact of droughts on the people of the desert. Through her character’s experiences, she highlights the interconnectedness of humanity and nature, emphasizing the need for environmental conservation.

Moreover, Gulf literature also delves into the complex relationship between humans and the environment. In his novel “Cities of Salt,” Saudi author Abdelrahman Munif narrates the story of a desert village that is uprooted and destroyed by oil drilling. The novel confronts the consequences of human actions on the environment, as well as the efforts to save and protect it. It is a powerful reminder of the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature and the importance of being responsible stewards of the environment.

In conclusion, Gulf literature has played a crucial role in addressing environmental issues and their impact on society in the region. Through their works, writers have shed light on the detrimental effects of the oil and gas industry, the need to preserve traditional practices, the consequences of climate change, and the complex relationship between humans and the environment. By examining these themes in Gulf literature, we can gain a better understanding of the environmental challenges faced by the region and the urgent need for sustainable solutions.