On Saudi Arabia by Karen Elliott House #BookReview

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Welcome back… to my blog 🙂

I know it’s been a while and I kinda feel bad, but I set this blog up so that I could enjoy it, so that’s what I’m doing. Also, this is the 100th blog post in almost a year of blogging; awesome or what? But let’s get to business.

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has spent the last thirty years writing about Saudi Arabia—as diplomatic correspondent, foreign editor, and then publisher of The Wall Street Journal—an important and timely book that explores all facets of life in this shrouded Kingdom: its tribal past, its complicated present, its precarious future.

Behind the Saudi facade of order and obedience, today’s Saudi youth, frustrated by social conformity, are reaching out to one another and to a wider world beyond their cloistered country. Some 50 percent of Saudi youth is on the Internet; 5.1 million Saudis are on Facebook.

I somehow felt it was only appropriate to come back to reviews continuing from where I left off. So we are still in the Middle East, still in Saudi Arabia, but in more recent times, somehow.

I’m talking about the book On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – And Future from Karen Elliott House. Very exciting and filled with information and details. Amazingly written and offering a great overview of the kingdom published in 2013. And if you look closely and read today’s news regarding the country, you will feel it’s written last week. 

At times it feels like it has predicted the future, precisely regarding the options the Royal Family had in order to keep the reins. We can easily see and understand the emergence of a younger prince in the top of the decision-making mechanism. It was only natural.

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines - And Future

The book is much more than that though, it makes a details picture of the Saudi society. It goes to women, young people, religious people, modernists, unemployed, widows, princes, and successful businessmen. It’s an interesting political and sociological overview of Arabia.

And an image of a society half asleep but doesn’t know what’s happening around it and doesn’t really want to know. Also an image of a society half awake, the one that wants something new, but doesn’t know exactly what and how to get it. And on top of all of this, the As-Saudi family trying to balance everything around them.

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines - And Future back cover

Full of jokes and witty writing the book is a very easy read; it’s like having a conversation with the author after she returned from a trip in Saudi Arabia. I loved the way she presents an interview for instance and then presents how others perceived those said and how it actually affects society.

It talks about the oil and how the oil might soon be a thing of the past, exactly what we see in Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to diversify the income for his country. I believe that reading the book now, taking into account the current articles and news reports about MBS’ actions within the kingdom, will help understand. Be it arresting high-profile businessmen and princes or having talks with Silicon Valley companies in order to bring them to the kingdom, it’s interesting to see how he will maintain the stronghold he has on power.

I believe the book offers a great insight into the local version of feminism and democracy and how it can ever develop over there. Interesting to see how hard it is to hold the equilibrium and the status quo, with or without help from outside.

Definitely a compelling book and worth checking out. Let me know what you guys think of it.

Bis bald!


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