Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia – Need I say More…

This was a book I had wanted to get my hands on for a while. When suddenly I found it in a thrift store with a bargain price of a few Euros. How lucky was I! And it was worth it.


Sultana (not her real name of course) lives in luxury in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s and 1960s, but from a young age is becomes acutely aware of her social standing in the strict Islamic ruled Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She might be a princess, but she has not even the luxury to go walk outside without an escort and everything is decided for her. As a woman her duty is to be a good daughter, get married and please her husband and bring honour to her family by having sons. Anything diverting from this path is a crime and the book shows and tells the stories of living inside a country with so much wealth yet so little freedom.

So to get this elephant out of the room…let’s talk about the controversy about this book. It had been alleged that Jean Sasson copied the story with the help of her publisher from Friederike Monika Adsani who had written a book Cinderella in Arabia or Cinderella in Kuwait and that the publisher passed on the story to Sasson who copied it and used it for her books. It was taken to court in the 90s but the judge dismissed the charges of plagiarism and made Adsani pay Sasson’s legal fees. I’ve not read the book, but considering both deal with human rights abuses it is possible some overlap might have happened just by the same subject matter.

I can’t say one way or the other, because Sasson has spent time in Saudi Arabia and the fact that the  Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, especially during the time this book is set in the 1960s-1970s things might have been different from what it is today, not that they are any better. The women may be allowed to drive and vote, but all the women activists who had fought for those rights were locked up by the current ruler…the world congratulated on the “progress” made even thought it was barely baby steps, and the crimes committed in the Saud family numerous against their own kin, their people and foreigners who work there.

In the end the story has so many dreadful things and sound to Westerners ears as too horrendous extraordinary to happen (though considering the current climate of the world I don’t think that is a thing anymore). But I think that Saudi Princesses have tired to escape from the country in fast succession, with various degrees of success, it is safe to say that even reading this book now it still felt relevant. It will be a happy day to say when it will come the time to say that the story and horrendous abuses in this book as well as in the series are history. But, considering the greed for oil and the strictness of the people ruling the country it will take a miracle for things to fully change.

Pick this book up you want to read about human rights abuses (I don’t want to label then women’s rights, because then we become a separate class by doing so, instead of being considered human from the first) and how things are in Saudi Arabia and how they have been for a long time. Just remember this is not a story every Saudi Arabian woman faces or every Muslim woman for that matter. Sultana is from the highest rank in the country and the book tells of those within the lowest as well as do Sasson’s other books.

Overall a an engaging read that I finished in one day. Well-written and seems believable in my mind. Pick this up if you are curious, but we warned there are graphic descriptions of all the horrendous things that happen to women and those considered second-class or below in Saudi Arabia. TRIGGER WARNINGS APPLY!

If this is not your cup of tea, but want to learn about Muslim cultures then I suggest you take a look at the media, music, the poems and books written by them. All are easy to be found. I’ve only now read this book and plan on reading the others as well. But remember things and experiences change from country to country, culture to culture, family to family!! And mind you that the West is not the Benchmark of Progress (to quote Piku here) by any means. 

This is just my general warning against generalisation in general (boy, that sure was a tongue twister). I want to end on a light note. So there. 


Thank you for reading! 

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