Best Historical Fiction Books Set in the Middle East

The ancient gates of Persepolis. The stunning salty shores of the Dead Sea. The vibrant mix of old and new in Dubai. The Middle East is full of awe-spiring sites, rich with history, making it a perfect place for stories of the past.

Looking for historical fiction set in the Middle East? Then consider us your on-call Shaharazad.

This list of the best historical fiction books set in the Middle East region will take you from the bustling streets of Tehran to the hillsides of Aleppo (no passport or time machine required). 

Song of a Captive Bird 

Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/Song-Captive-Bird-Jasmin-Darznik/dp/0399182314

It’s the summer of 1950 in Tehran and the world is about to witness the rise of the feminist movement in Iran. For young poet Forugh Farrokhazad, it’ll be the summer her spirit, love of poetry, and determination to speak her mind will change history.

The Iranian Revolution and the birth of a young writer come together with the intimate dialogue of a dear friend and the profound lyricism of a poet Iranian history will never forget. 

This entrancing novel follows the story of real-life activist and poet Forugh Farrokhazad from her rebellious childhood to her adult life as a feminist icon and master poet. Poetry lovers will love reading original translations of Farrokzhad’s poems scattered throughout the pages of Song of a Captive Bird.

Bring this book to the garden with a cup of fragrant Persian tea. Take a sip, and follow Forugh into the wild blossoms and thorns of her story to learn how a woman’s words can change the world. 

Other Words For Home

Image Source: http://jasminewarga.com/other-words-for-home

Literati Luminary, Malala, includes this novel in her Fearless Book Club for its display of audacious spirit and lovable protagonists. 

At the height of the civil war in Syria, Jude and her mother find themselves tasked with the decision to stay in their once idyllic village on the Syrian coast or to escape the violence that is quickly overtaking its shores. 

Readers will love this book for its examination of a not-so-distant history and for its unique, free verse narration style. Jasmin Warga brings us a story of family, of displacement, and the struggle to define home that plagues many of the refugees living in our world today.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/608250/the-beekeeper-of-aleppo-by-christy-lefteri/

The Beekeeper of Aleppo closely follows the lives of Nuri, a successful beekeeper, and his wife Afra, a talented artist. Driven from war-torn Syria to Turkey, Greece, and finally the United Kingdom, the couple will face a path full of danger that will grip readers from page one. But beyond examining the struggle of finding home, this Aspen Words Literary Prize-winning novel offers an intimate look at a marriage tested by trauma, war, and loss. 

Lefteri crafts an exceptional novel documenting two characters and their fight for safety, home, and each other. Make no mistake, this book will break your heart. But Afra and Nuri will put it back together again. Because at the end of the day, The Beekeeper of Aleppo isn’t just a story of hardship—it’s a love story. (So have the tissues at the ready).

The Blood of Flowers

Image Source: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/anita-amirrezvani/the-blood-of-flowers/

For centuries, Persian rugs have been an art form. But could they change the fate of a 17th century Persian girl?

In Blood of Flowers, a teenager (who remains nameless throughout the novel) must make her way from her poor village to the great city of Isfahan. There, she comes under the protection of her rich uncle who works as the Shah’s carpet weaver. Secretly, our nameless heroine discovers her talent at carpet weaving. But a woman’s place is not in the carpet-makers’ workshops. Unless she seizes the threads to her fate.

This rich tapestry of long-ago Iran will transport readers to the exquisite court of shahs and the dangerous streets of Isfahan. The vivid descriptions, enchanting narrative style, and heart-wrenching up’s and down’s of Amirrezvani’s exquisite debut will make this one of your favorite historical fiction novels yet. 

Mother of the Believers

Image Source: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Mother-of-the-Believers/Kamran-Pasha/9781416579915

Wife, warrior, world-changer. The story of Aisha, Muhammad’s seventh wife, is not always thought of when you think of Islam’s beginings. But after the prophet dies in her arms, Aisha becomes the leader her people need.

In his thorougly researched novel, Mother of the Believers, Kamran Pasha takes you back to the tumultuous birth of Islam. Immerse yourself in ancient politics, bloody battles, and the incredible personal journey one woman takes to survive an empire at war and bring her beliefs to the world. 

Literati: For the History-Loving Bibliophiles

If you love learning about the cultures of the world through historical fiction, you’ve come to the right place. Literati’s Luminary book clubs find exceptional novels that span across genres. Join a community of other history-loving book -lovers here

Sources: 

NPR. ‘The Beekeeper Of Aleppo’ Wins 2020 Aspen Words Literary Prize

https://www.npr.org/2020/04/16/835950317/the-beekeeper-of-aleppo-wins-2020-aspen-words-literary-prize

NPR. These ‘Words For Home’ Are Poetic And Powerful.

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/30/726354827/these-words-for-home-are-poetic-and-powerful

NPR. ‘I Belonged Nowhere’: A Story Of Displacement, From A Novelist Who Knows.

https://www.npr.org/2017/05/04/526785965/i-belonged-nowhere-a-story-of-displacement-from-a-novelist-who-knows

Penguin Random House. Song of a Captive Bird. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/555992/song-of-a-captive-bird-by-jasmin-darznik/

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