By Qanta Ahmed, MD; @2008; Sourcebooks, Inc.; 437 pages.
I came to this book with very little knowledge of Islam or of Saudi Arabia. This was a fascinating read, and I highly recommend the book. While structurally the book reads like a series of ideas that the author felt compelled to cover, the book is loaded with interesting factual information—it is a must read for anyone planning a trip to the Kingdom.
What is certain from the very beginning is that Ahmed did not like to veil. I came away from the book thinking that veiling might be ok if it weren’t mandatory. The fact that women can be harrassed if not properly veiled offends my Western sensibilities. Also, what’s up with men wearing white (a heat repelling color) in a hot climate and women having to wear black (a heat attracting color)? That ain’t right.
I was shocked to learn that women are not allowed to purchase music. I love Arabian music, and I simply can’t imagine not being allowed to listen to it or purchase it on my own.
Throughout the book, I was haunted by the question of what does a woman do if she has no male figure in her life to drive her, accompany her, or do all the other things that only men are allowed to do? Women are like possessions.
Ahmed’s writing is engaging, and every night I looked forward to sitting down and reading more about her experiences. I was fascinated by her spiritual experiences during Hajj, but also upset that only Muslims are allowed entry. The recurring theme of this book seemed to be: “you’re not in the club.”
Ahmed’s coverage of the relationship between the Muttawa and the Saudi royalty was very interesting.
One thing is certain, I would not do well in the Kingdom. I’d slip up and get into some kind of life-threatening trouble.
In the Land of Invisible Women was a fascinating adventure into a place I will probably never go. I give it two thumbs up and a wiggle.