Does the Orient dream of the Orient too? Or is this a speciality of an Occident weary of civilisation and reason, which has long projected its needs for mysterious and meditatively abstemious serenity onto the eastern regions of the world from North Africa to China? In the Romantic period, India was singled out as the ultimate “fernwehland” [the longing for faraway places, an antonym for Heimweh or homesickness] the opposite pole to the goal-oriented rationality and early capitalism of Europe, although – or perhaps because – its admirers never went there. Novalis, Jean Paul and Goethe needed no more than the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads to believe in and feed the myth of Arcadian Indian wholeness. Today the huge success of Ayurveda and Yoga travel industry suggests that the myth lives on.

But what does an aristocratic Muslim woman from an Emirate dynasty, a Sheikha, think about such European dreams and longings? This question arose when I found out that the Arabic translation of my first novel, “Sister and Brother”, which deals with a journey to India and its psychological consequences, had landed in the hands of the Sheikha Shamma.

more from Sign and Sight here.