The first time I heard about the controversial Saudi novel Banat Al Riyadh (The girls of Riyadh) by female Saudi writer Raja Al Sanea was when I read about it in the Arab blogosphere. If my memory serves me right, I think I heard about it first on Saudi Jeans blog. So when I was in Jordan I made sure to visit Prime Mega store at Mecca Mall to get my hands on a copy of the book to see what the fuss was all about.
I finished reading it on the plane from Amman to Chicago and I have to admit it was an amusing read, although not as controversial as I expected. The author sheds light on the lives of four young upper-class Saudi women who are desperately trying to find the loves of their lives. In their pursuit, the women face a plethora of obstacles, ranging from their own insecurities to their ultra-conservative society’s strict rules.
The writing is whimsical and very amusing at times. The only disappointing part for me was that I was expecting the novel to be more daring, revealing the secret lives of the female half of Saudi society. After all, the novel was banned in Saudi Arabia. But then again, many things get banned in Saudi Arabia.
The novel reads pretty rapidly, though I found it difficult at times to understand the Saudi dialect. All in all, the book is definitely worth your time. For someone unaware of the lives of Saudi women, I found this book entertaining, pretty enlightening and, at times, daring. Here’s an interview with the author in English. And here is what some other bloggers said about the novel: Anolita, Badr and Ohoud (in Arabic).
Does anyone know where I could buy Banat al-Riyadh in the States or online? Shukran..
on a parallel front, 3maraet yacobian also talks about the Eygptian society. However, i am not how true these novels are
I haven’t read the book yet… Actually I CANNOT read it now since I’m in Riyadh, but I hope to read it during summer vecation in Amman.
Anyway, looking at the way things are going to in KSA, it seesm that the book is only one step in the 100 miles march of making the saudi society more open to the world.
Many profound changes are taking place now, in government and legislation and also in the general saudi mentality. And everything is moving in the same direction.
Ya Khabar Befloos….!
I thought it was a good read as well … and I hope to see an English version very soon for all those interested to get a chance to read it
I haven’t had the chance to read the novel yet. However, I think one of the good things about it is that it stirred up controversy and opened up debate channels in the country. Many conservatives deemed it corrupt even without reading it and were appalled by the idea that a young woman of their own would write about the unthinkable: love and relationships. I am hoping that it is an opening for more to come.