In preparation to come to the Kingdom and since I have been here, I have read many books on Saudi Arabian history and culture. The books have helped me to make sense of the country in which I live.
Although Saudi Arabia is changing at a rapid pace and some of the books do not accurately portray the less conservative practices which are in place today, they are extremely valuable resources to understand the foundation of Saudi Arabia and its people.
1) Before I left Canada, I read The Princess Trilogy by Jean Sasson. These books follow the life and struggles of a feminist, high ranking princess named Sultana. Her goal is to improve the lives of the women in Saudi Arabia.
– Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson
– Princess Sultana’s Daughter by Jean Sasson
– Princess Sultana’s Circle by Jean Sasson
2) Just before I arrived, I read a book about expat life in the Kingdom. It was helpful to prepare me for, and ease some of my worries, moving to the far away mystical land.
– Saudi Arabia Guide for Expats by David Fair and Stephanie Katz
3) I read the following book after I arrived. It is a light, easy read about the lives of 4 college age women. It will provide you with an idea of the customs between men and women. As well as what the younger female generation is up against while having modern hopes and dreams, but living in a country with conservative customs and traditions.
4) This book was written by a doctor who worked for the Nation Guard Hospital (same hospital I work for) in Riyadh a number of years ago. I enjoyed reading it because I could recognize and identify with many of the items she discussed.
– In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctors Journey in the Kindom by Qanta Ahmed
5) I am half way finished reading this book and it is so so good! I am glad that I, without intention, am reading it now, 10 months into my stay. As the title indicates, it covers Saudi Arabian history from Muhammad to the present time. Saudi Arabian history is fascinating with the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the return to pagan customs and idol worship, and then a resurrection of Islamic ideas with Wahhabism in the 18th century, to the founding of the country, alliances with the West as well as Bedouin tribes, and the oil war’s of the 20th century. In the last 10 months, I have observed and absorbed Saudi life. This book provides context for, and a historical understanding of, the different and sheltered way of life.
– Prophets and Princes: Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present by Mark Weston