Book Review

Review By Michael Collins (author of St George and the Dragons: The Making of English Identity):
Having lived and worked in Saudi Arabia I can heartily recommend this ground-breaking easy-to-read presentation of the role of tradition, especially gender segregation, on everyday life in the country. Abdul Al Lily, an Oxford-trained sociologist, himself a Saudi living and teaching there, enables us, especially the many who, like me, do not speak or read Arabic, to understand in detail how tradition tenaciously shapes Saudi culture.
Based on qualitative research with 2,000 respondents (although the sub-cohorts for some questionnaires are rather small) the author poses bold questions about how Saudi men and women respond to Western liberal values and how they evade restrictions on their experiences of other cultures through the use, for example, of headphones and internet apps.
Because the research is presented in bite-sized sections which are listed in the Contents the book can be easily used as a guide to social, religious and cultural attitudes and practices on such subjects (among many) as marriage, gender roles, family relations, eroticism (or lack of it) and the frustrations experienced, if not often expressed to strangers, among Saudi young people. The author leaves the political role of tradition as the subject for further study.
The Bro Code of Saudi Culture is essential reading for specialists and non-specialists interacting with Saudis and for Saudis who wish to reflect on much they may have taken for granted about their culture. The appendices propose a theory of tradition as the basis for further research. This, together with the body of the book, comprises an outstanding contribution to the study and understanding of Saudi society.

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