The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsnea
So begins my middle eastern kick.... well actually, this is my second book about that enticing and scary place since school got out. Reading Lolita in Tehran was my 74th book last year, and it became one of my favorites. i'm not sure if everyone would like it like i do, though, as i enjoy it also from the eyes of a literature student.....
let me start out by confessing that i am incredibly naive and ignorant to many matters- other cultures being one of them. the only thing i really knew about the middle east/central asian areas i learned from aladdin so many years ago. as you can imagine, my knowledge set is a little skewed as a result. but this past year i have learned a lot, and i am eager to learn more. several assigned books (A Passage to India, a british classic, and Shabanu, a tale of a young nomad girl in current day Pakistan) taught me a lot. and then there was a handsome saudi who got me a lot more interested in the ways of the arabic people. i know it's a little pathetic to throw yourself on a subject simply because a cute boy is tied to it, but i am one of those girls. if you don't know me already, you will see more proof of this later on, i'm almost positive. i also know a rediculous amount about baseball (thankyou first boyfriend) and i have an encyclopedic ear for rappers' voices and some mildly impressive skills in guitar hero (thank you boyfriend number 2). so now i throw myself into the world of the exotic middle east. arrrraaaaabbbian niiiiigggghttts ha ha ha ha ANYWHO, back to the novel- it wasn't spectacularly exciting or memorable, but i enjoyed it and i learned a lot about saudi culture.it is truly facsinating to see how these girls behave and are treated. it is everyday for them. of course this was a fairly mild view, and there was nothing to do with violence or even close to view the oppression, but to these girls, it is normal. i cannot imagine. they live completely under the rule of the Qu'ran- the Islamic religion is literally their set of laws. those aren't suggestions to live a moral life, they are rules punishable by ????? i don't even want to think about the punishment. they yearn for each other through the phone. what must we american girls (or westernized girls in general) look like to them? heathens? whores? or the luckiest girls on earth? here we are, with our little "sleepovers" but even sleeping in the same room with a man must look like a horrible (or truly delectable) sin to them- much less sleeping all up on them, in underwear???? it kind of makes you wonder what the hell we ought to think of ourselves? maybe we should step back, especially as christian girls and think that maybe we should be a little more prudent. but why? shouldn't we abuse our priviliges as much as we can? i don't know, these thoughts kind of scare me. what if i body-swapped with a saudi girl? what would our lives be like in these alter bodies? i guess that is just something to think about next time i go 'hang out' with a guy, right? and reading The Girls of Riyadh did teach me a few things about their culture and lives, so here they are, on a less serious note:
Things I learned from reading The Girls of Riyadh:
1. Riyadh is a city in Saudi Arabia
2. An Abayah is the name for what the rest of us call those robe thingys (for women)
3. the traditional outfit for a man (white robe, red/white head covering) is composed of a thobe, a shimagh (my favorite, because it is fun to pronounce- the head covering) and eqal is the dark ropey part that keeps the shimagh in place
4. men often "number" girls in hangout places like the mall or streets- they give them flowers with their phone numbers wrapped around the stem
5. for many, the phone is the only way to get to know someone of the opposite sex that is unrelated
6. the month after Ramadan is the most popular time for weddings
so there's some fun facts for you. now read from right to left and say "happy times!" altogether now:
yes, i realize that was a very inappropriate way to end a discussion about saudi arabian culture, especially since i am lumping borat, a kazakstani, in with it, but i love borat so much, and this will probably not be the last time you see him.