Book Review: Banat Al-Riyad

Warning: This book is in Arabic.

This book tells the story of 4 girls, and their struggle in the Saudi society. Lamis, Komra, Michelle, and Sadim are 4 friends each from a different background and with a different personality but they all share a common struggle within the highly conservative Saudi society.

The kind of struggle that i am talking about is the simple “live your life as you see fit” experience that people who live in a western culture often take for granted. Living in a conservative society, and specifically within the Arab culture is quite a demanding lifestyle. Even more so within the Saudi community.

The fact that Saudi women have to cover their heads and bodies with a black garment whenever they go outside of the privacy of their homes might seem harsh and incomprehensible to some. But the life that they are forced to lead and the even more imposing restrictions even within the security of their own homes is even more incomprehensible.

The story goes on to describe how each girl goes through a different, yet similar, tale of seeking love, life and an overall achievement of one’s dreams. Each story ends differently and although all are full with sad tales and suffering, they all somehow reach a positive outcome.( i don’t want to ruin the book for you)

One story goes on about an arranged marriage and how it fails miserably to the detriment of the woman who believes that by following the path that her mother shows her, she would go on to achieve every Saudi girl’s dream….that of marrying a man and having kids….Some dream that is.

Another story describes a blossoming relationship that has to be lived in secret and how that secret, and again because of the overwhelming restrictions placed on men and women, leads to the destruction of the relationship.

Another story also tells us about the unusual quest of one of the girls to excel at her career(medicine) and the different experiences that this girl goes through because of this dream. The unusual part being that Saudi women in general should only look forward to marrying a God-fearing man with some money and having a bunch of kids…i do not personally share that view.

And And And…..You get the picture.

Overall, this book was a very interesting read. But being an Arab myself and knowing first hand about such do’s and don’t’s in our culture(which is no way near the Saudi restriction), the book probably didn’t have the proper effect on me. Don’t get me wrong, i think its a very good book. But…..I have no sympathy for such stories. I have always said that extreme restrictions will lead to extreme ideologies(it actually sounds better in Arabic). And we hear about such stories all the time(being closer to Saudi Arabia and it being the largest tourism source for my country, Lebanon).

I think that this is an excellent read that fits well in the “read before you go to sleep” list. But a word of caution. This book will probably never get translated because of the language used. The Saudi dialect and the English-Arabic words(writing the English pronunciation but in Arabic letters) make this a book somewhat harder to read. So if you find yourself wondering what a certain word means…this is probably the reason.

I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

 

Update: The book was translated but I haven’t read it in English.