Book Review: In The Land Of Invisible Women

I have to admit right off that I, like most Americans,  know very, very little about Saudi Arabia.   I vaguely remember when I was just a child that my mother worked for a builder/developer who did some business in and travel to that country and I also seem to recall a high school English teacher who shared with the class her memories of living temporarily in Saudi Arabia as a teacher, stories of having to wear an abbayah and not being allowed to drive.   So when a publicist sent me an e-mail offering a review copy of In The Land Of Invisible Women,  I immediately accepted.  And like Dr. Qanta Ahmed,  I had no idea really what I was getting into.

Dr. Ahmed, a Muslim woman raised in the United Kingdom and trained in medicine in New York City, writes of impulsively accepting a head hunter’s offer of a position at a hospital in Riyadh when she was unable to extend her US visa to continue her work at a New York hospital.  She signed a contract agreeing to abide by the laws of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including Islamic Sharia law and soon flew to Riyadh where she would work for a year in the ICU at King Fahad National Guard Hospital.   Dr. Ahmed is an excellent writer and it is both thrilling and at times deeply disturbing to journey with her to this very foreign and strange land, where women are deeply segregated and restricted and the dictates of the radical Wahabi clerics carry the full force of law.

As interesting as the tales of public life in the Kingdom were,  I was even more intrigued by some of the stories of private life, such as a party for women only, where the abbayahs are shed and fashionably dressed women dance and party all night long.   Dr. Ahmed also writes a lot about her experience attending Hajj, the annual journey to Mecca which every able bodied Muslim is expected to do at least once in their life and about courageous upper class Saudis who are working to change their society and reverse some of the more odious repressive rules.    This book was very educational for me and gave me my first real glimpse into the life of Saudi Arabia and of Muslims.    In The Land Of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed MD.   Highly Recommended. Buy now only $14.99