Book Reviews

Want to learn more about Saudi Arabia before moving or just for the fun of learning about the people and their culture? Well, I’ve read quite a handful of books on life in Saudi, and I share my thoughts below. I shall only share positive reviews of books I have loved and that I believe might be helpful to persons wishing to learn more about the culture, traditions, and economy of Saudi Arabia.

In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
by Qanta A. Ahmed 

Formats available on Amazon: Kindle | Paperback 
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My review: 

I read this last year, but I just didn't have the time to write and post my review. Nevertheless, her story is one that remains fresh in my memory and one that is worth reading and sharing. 

Dr. Ahmed, a US-trained Pakistani British doctor, shares with readers her experience as a Muslim woman working in the kingdom. She reveals the intricacies associated with being a Muslim Western woman in an Islamic context.

This book provides deep insight into Saudi customs and, in my opinion, it gives a balanced account of the lives of women who live in Saudi. She shares the beauty this great Muslim nation and also describes its problems. As someone who has lived in Saudi for 9 years, I agree with her viewpoints regarding men and women's opinions and views on women's rights. Like her, I've had colleagues who were outright misogynist and those who were liberal and thought that things would change with time.

As a working healthcare professional who moved to Saudi Arabia, I can relate a lot to her story and how she shares it. This was a fascinating, compelling, and unfortunately, honest portrayal of some aspects of women's life in the kingdom. I think this is one of those books that you should read if you are interested in what the lives of women are like in a conservative country such as Saudi Arabia.

Paramedic to the Prince: An American Paramedic's Account of Life Inside the Mysterious World of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Kindle Edition
by Patrick (Tom) Notestine

Formats available on Amazon: Kindle | Paperback 
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My review:

This book is not really well-written, but if you can get past that and read for the content, this book provides the unique experience of the author--an intriguing look at his life as a paramedic at a hospital and then to a Saudi prince.

While I do not agree with some of his opinions regarding paramedic practices in Saudi Arabia, I was fascinated by his account of life as a member of a Saudi prince's medical team. Honestly, in the 9 years that I've lived in Saudi Arabia, I've never met any member of the royal family. I therefore found it interesting to read about Notestine's account of his experience as a paramedic at the palace. The author, however, presents a shallow description of women's lives--a description that doesn't go beyond culture shock.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those who wish to have a quick insight into expat life in Saudi Arabia or those who wish to lean about a culture that they're curious about.

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines - and Future  
by Karen Elliott House

Formats available on Amazon: Kindle | Paperback | Hardcover 

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My review:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It provides a solid account of issues in Saudi Arabia, covering politics, religion, society, rulers, terrorism, and other matters surrounding oil.
The subject matter was well-researched although as a "third sex" (western woman), I think the author's accounts were always biased in favour of the western perspective. 

She depicts that Saudis are now more aware than before, particularly young people, as a result of the existence of the Internet. According to the author, the power of information threatens the Saudi regime, and it she even describes the power of the Internet as the biggest threat to the House of Saud. In the chapter about young people, I agreed with the author on most levels. Young Saudis that I've interacted with during the nearly 9 years that I've lived here in KSA, appear to be more liberal and disagree with the opinions of the older generation. They wish to explore, learn more, and do things in an unconventional way. Karen House also writes about conflicts within the royal family and describes the hypocritical religiosity of the people, although she believes that religion is a pillar of the Saudi regime. She even goes on to describe certain pertinent issues regarding how religion unites and divides the Saudis (in Chapter 3).

Overall, although this book was well researched and written, it was somewhat repetitive, and the author was biased in her opinions of the royal family. However, I thought the book was extremely insightful, and if there was a single book that I had to recommend to persons interested in the Saudi society and its internal workings, I would definitely recommend this one. 

Have you read other books that you believe might help other expats or persons who wish to learn more about the kingdom? You are welcome to post your review the comment section.

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