• Black Wave

  • Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Rivalry That Unravelled the Middle East
  • By: Kim Ghattas
  • Narrated by: Kim Ghattas, Nan McNamara
  • Length: 16 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A timely and unprecedented examination of how the modern Middle East unravelled and why it started with the pivotal year of 1979. 

'What happened to us?'

For decades, the question has haunted the Arab and Muslim world, heard across Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and in the author's home country of Lebanon. Was it always so? When did the extremism, intolerance and bloodletting of today displace the region's cultural promise and diversity? 

In Black Wave, award-winning journalist and author Kim Ghattas argues that the turning point in the modern history of the Middle East can be located in the toxic confluence of three major events in 1979: the Iranian revolution; the siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca; and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Before this year, Saudi Arabia and Iran had been working allies and twin pillars of US strategy in the region - but the radical legacy of these events made them mortal enemies, unleashing a process that transformed culture, society, religion and geopolitics across the region for decades to come. 

Drawing on a sweeping cast of characters across seven countries over 40 years, Ghattas demonstrates how this rivalry for religious and cultural supremacy has fed intolerance, suppressed cultural expression, encouraged sectarian violence, birthed groups like Hezbollah and ISIS and, ultimately, upended the lives of millions. At once bold and intimate, Black Wave is a remarkable and engrossing story of the Middle East as it has never been told before.

©2020 Kim Ghattas (P)2020 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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    4 out of 5 stars

An extraordinary book of our times

Kim Ghattas took a very difficult topic for research. But honestly, she did the job fantastically. In this book, she tells us the backstories of modern time changes in the Middle East and introduces us to the characters who brought these changes or are part of these changes. She ruthlessly clears her point without any if and but. Few other books are also on this topic of the middle east but not with such profound effect as this is. She goes deep into the roots of unrest in the Muslim World and tries to tell us with examples that "What happened to Muslim World?"

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  • E P
  • 02-16-20

A real five star eye opener

This is an extraordinary book. Making sense and unraveling a complex story that has shaped our world. Should be compulsory reading for anyone in government.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Dr Alf
  • 06-25-20

Too Detailed and Light on Analysis

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, I found it too detailed and light on analysis. Much of the book is descriptive but I felt that the author was almost afraid to take a position. I sensed that the author's worldview was based on liberalism but at other times she was passionately supporting the underdog, taking a Marxist perspective. I would have preferred less historic data and more analysis. Overall its an impressive piece of research but could have been improved with a theoretical framework.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-09-20

Brilliant

Beautifully narrated riveting explanation of 40 years of Middle East history. For someone with only a passing interest in this area, this book took me on a wonderful tour around the region and through time. A thread is delicately weaved through tales of people and towns that I had heard on the news throughout my life. I am looking forward to listening to it again armed with insight gained from the first hearing.

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  • Jane
  • 06-25-21

Let down by poor narration

The narrator is really terrible…could she not have had some coaching on French, Arabic and Persian pronunciation before she began? She has an irritating habit of pausing before each french word and butchering them all no matter how many times she repeats them. Hard to bear….

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  • Mrs. G. Moynihan
  • 06-05-21

A very human story

This is a first class book. It cuts through, but does not ignore the political speak sound bites that we get from the very shallow media coverage (of the Middle East). The book leaves no stone unturned in analysing what has happened & is happening in the main player countries as well as the unfortunate bystander, Lebanon, whose only ‘crime’ is to be geographically & politically situated right in the centre of a maelstrom. It’s a personal taste thing, but the American narrator lets it down slightly for me.

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  • Osama
  • 03-15-21

Historical Deep Dive of Middle East Politics

The book draws on the ever-growing complex web known as Middle East politics. It aims to remain factual on historical events yet hints on the author's thoughts between the lines. Recommended read to anyone who is interested in understanding historical events in the Middle East since 1970s to date, with particular focus
on the role of Saudi Arabia and Iran's feud in shaping alliances and hostilities among countries in the region.

While the book is a knowledge mine and comprehensive, it was 1 star short from an overall 5 start review due to the narration. Although the overall English narration was clear, as an Arabic speaker I could not help overcome the inaccurate pronunciation of the non-native speaking narrator of characters, cities, and phrases portrayed in the book. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed reading this book. Good luck.

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  • MS Titcombe
  • 03-15-21

Dreadful staccato reading

Gave up after one chapter of weird, jarring narrative punctuation full of strange momentary pauses. Be warned the sample is only the of intro read by the author, not the body of the book read by the (IMO poor and inappropriate) narrator.

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  • Mr. F. Khan
  • 09-12-20

Superb

Rarely write reviews but will make a exception for this as it is absolutely gripping from the first page.

Would highly recommend even if you feel you have only a outline interest in middle east related issues.

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  • B M.
  • 07-18-20

Brilliant

Magnificent listen for anyone interested to understand and learn about the complex dynamics in the Middle East and empathise with its people.



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  • David Shein
  • 07-05-20

Objective, educational and inspirational

I loved the book. It was easy to listen to. Not only does Kim write extremely well but she also an outstanding narrator. The book provides a fascinating insight into the rise of fundamental Islam and I feel that the author provides an extremely objective overview of the challenges faced by moderates across the Middle East, Pakistan and Iran. Thank you for the education.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-12-21

Shifted my perspective

As a non muslim i found the bool amazing and engaging. I learnt so much and could not stop listening.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-06-20

Very well researched

Great book. Very thorough - Maybe a little too much info to keep track of as it jumped around at times

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-13-20

Excellent book

I found this to be a well researched book that explain the modern history of the Middle East and particular Religious fundamentalism and differences between sects and countries very well.
It kept me captivated for the entire length.