|recommend book⇒Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia
|Carmen Bin Ladin
Carmen bin Laden’s father was a Swiss and her mother an aristocratic Iranian. She married Osama’s older brother Yeslam.
There is not much about Osama, other than the family, even in secret, asserted that Osama did not orchestrate 9/11.
However, there is a tremendous amount about what life for woman in Saudi Arabia is like.
The author paints a very unflattering portrait of herself as naïve, self-centred, shallow and petty. This lends authenticity since the important things she says in passing as she focuses on the trivial.
The first theme of the book is the fanatical segregation of the sexes. Women are virtual prisoners. I would say a prisoner in the USA has more freedom than a Saudi woman.
Bizarre as is sounds, she did not even attend her own wedding. A male relative served in proxy, holding the groom’s hand.
That black abaya (head to toe black covering) actually makes it impossible for women to see. It is like walking around at night. Even in the sweltering heat of Saudi Arabia, they wear gloves and thick black stockings to hide every inch of skin.
A woman is allowed to be seen by only other women, her husband and her brothers. So a family restaurant works like this. There are locked rooms for each family. Each time the waiter comes, he knocks on the door. The women all cover their faces. He pours the water. He leaves. Then they take off the veils to eat. This ritual is repeated for every dish he brings.
A man may not help his wife who has fainted up off the ground since embracing in public is not permitted. If he does so, religious police will beat him.
The author insisted on going shopping for some Similac canned breast milk when servants failed to find it. But women were not permitted in a store run by men. So they had to empty the store of all males before she could shop. There are special all female shops.
Women get no education, have no access to books. The rich ones entertain themselves memorising the Koran and shopping by having stuff delivered.
A man may have four wives at a time. He can divorce her just by saying I divorce thee three times. Adultery in women in punishable by death, but beatings and adultery by males are not grounds for divorce, only some obscure religious violations.
You’d think the females would be up in arms at this oppression, but they are the ones who work hardest to keep other females in line. This is the most important revelation of the book.
The other theme of the book is the belief you can’t be too religious. These people are puritans on steroids. Ashcroft and his $8000 robes for naked statues would be right at home.
At the same time they are big on hypocrisy, with rampant promiscuity and homosexuality, never acknowledged. Appearances are everything. Anything denied does not exist.
She only hints at some of the decadence of the Saudi Princes (e.g. Prince Bondar). She hints it is just too decadent to be believed but gives scant detail other than a comment about importing planeloads of call girls for parties. Bush of course attended many of these parties (not discussed in the book).
Osama himself is fanatically religious. Non Islamic people are not supposed to sully the Holy Ground in Saudi Arabia. That truly is the bee in his bonnet, just as he claimed. After reading about what religious fruitcakes ORDINARY Saudis are, it all makes perfect sense. Saudis spend their entire lives obsessing about minor sins.
One of the amusing things is the Saudi snobbery. If you aren’t Saudi, you’re a nobody. I thought only Americans thought that.
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