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The shoe is considered dirty because it is on the ground and associated with the foot, the lowest part of the body.

Hitting someone with a shoe shows that the victim is regarded as even lower.

The shoe is also considered unclean in the Muslim faith and believers must remove them before prayers. Compounding the shoe insult was Mr Zeidi’s likening of the US president to a dog.

While the comparison is perhaps not polite in any culture, among Arabs, who traditionally consider dogs unclean, the words were an even even more stinging.

O' Brien said that only 24% of the .1 billion needed for humanitarian aid in the country had so far been pledged, and he urged the international community to take immediate action to avert catastrophe."Crisis not coming, it is not looming," he said.

The café-lined promenade is a popular place for dates, increasingly common in Oman as the Persian Gulf sultanate adjusts to four decades of oil-fuelled development. Marrying for love was rare just 20 years ago in Oman, a peaceful nation of four million that borders Saudi Arabia and Yemen.The escalating conflict has also allowed al-Qaeda to reestablish itself in Yemen, taking over swaths of territory in the south and southeast of the country. NB *This is the unedited paper as given at the Oslo conference.An updated and edited version has been published in Utvik and Vikør, The Middle East in a Globalized World, Bergen/London 2000, 150-82.Please quote or refer only to the published article.* In the era of postmodern criticisms and postcolonial discourses, how should concepts 'traditional' and 'modern' be understood when studying complex Middle Eastern societies ?