Goodreads Review

Goodreads Review

The book presents quite unique material on some aspects of social life in Saudi Arabia. This can be of great use to expats living in the kingdom. It is revealing and at times even funny for locals. The content is non-judgmental and shown in minute detail. Knowing something about the thorough research done by the author enhances a reader’s opinion about objectivity and the informative aspect of the book.

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Harvard

The Professor at Harvard University George B. Moseley III has written the following private review of the book:

You have written a very interesting book. It is unlike anything else I have read. I like it a lot. Coming to it as a non-Saudi, it is tempting to comment on the specific beliefs and practices of Saudi men and women that you describe. But, I don’t think that would be useful at this point.

First, I want to say that the book is well written, from beginning to end. It is not only clear what you are saying, but you use words economically, and in a way that is pleasurable to read.

The presentation of the attitudes and behaviors of Saudis in bite-size chunks works well. They are succinct and convey their meaning quickly and simply. This format makes it easy to jump around the book, and dive in at any point to find something new and interesting.

The range of “explanations” is comprehensive. They cover nearly every topic about which someone might be curious, concerning every aspect of life in Saudi. I cannot imagine an issue that you have not addressed. I worked for one month in Saudi and it was nice to read candid descriptions of some of the activities I observed.

The credibility of your reports is enhanced by mentioning the research that is behind it. That raises the question of who is the target audience of this book. At a couple places, you list the variety of people for whom you intended the book. You also say that the primary purpose of the book is to entertain. At the same time, you refer to its usefulness to non-Saudi Muslims planning a Hajj, foreign writers, business travelers and expatriates, scholars and journalists, among others.

Brief

Every culture is governed by an internal code of conduct, and this publication offers the first written code of Saudi culture. The Saudi way of being has long been an oral tradition passed merely verbally from one generation to the next, despite its power to regulate every aspect of public and private lives. Most Saudi norms and values have long been unwritten and only orally communicated among Saudis. As a result, visitors to Saudi Arabia have been unable to read about Saudi norms and values. For this reason, this book spells out Saudi norms and values in bold print, recording the Saudi code of conduct and displaying it in a published format. It displays 2222 tweet-sized (often previously unrecorded) explanations of how the human body acts inside Saudi Arabia. It covers everything from top to bottom; the face, eyes, ears, mouth, waist, genitals and extremities. It is the product of close observations of everyday activities and around 2,000 interviews with nationals and residents, over the past five years.

This book is the first to talk about Saudi culture in a purely descriptive (and thus non-judgemental and unbiased) manner. It is the first to present Saudi values and norms in the form of a bullet-pointed list and in tweet-sized explanations. The way the content is focussed on bite-sized statements is intended to help put across very clearly and simply the information. The book is the first to be written by a male Saudi who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, who is still based in this country, who is a former officially-recognised imam and who comes from a working-class family—yet he is a backpacker, is married to a non-Saudi, non-Arab and non-Muslim European, has studied in Oxford, has published with the largest international academic publishers, has written in different languages and hence has the ability to communicate with foreign mentalities.

Publications about Saudi culture tend to be too serious; however, this book is not meant to be taken too seriously. The book is intended to be entertaining and humorous (and, surely, informative). It tries to avoid the use of the words ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ because of two main reasons. First, these two words are sensitive and, more importantly, serious. Second, the book is purely cultural and written entirely for the sake of cultural exchange (not for religious or political matters). This book is unbiased, exposing both negative and positive practices in Saudi society. Many Saudi readers of the book have criticised the author for not trying to invite (through and in the book) non-Muslim readers to Islam. Yet, this book is written purely for the sake of cultural exchange (not for religious reasons), with no religious or political agendas.