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Dec 08 2016

In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta Ahmed

Reviewed by Gwynn Thayer, Associate Head & Curator of Special Collections, NCSU Libraries

I was not able to put this book down over the Thanksgiving Holiday: In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed, MD. Although I don’t actually think that the author, Quanta A. Ahmed, MD, is what I would characterize as a good writer – sometimes her prose is excessively flowery and self-indulgent – I do think that her observations about women in Saudi Arabia were keen and deeply considered. Especially intriguing is the fact that the author herself is Muslim, and in many cases, offers a deep criticism of conservative Saudi Wahhabi beliefs. To that end, her experiences during Hajj – in fact, her first pilgrimage to Mecca – were particularly fascinating; even though she experienced a spiritual transformation, she simultaneously observed troublesome social and class hierarchies in play during her journey. Too, she experienced “shaming” from some religiously conservative women who felt that she was “Haram” in some of her behaviors. All in all, given the current political climate, I think that it is important to develop a deeper understanding of Muslim, Arab, and Bedouin Culture, and this book certainly helped to “unveil” some of the cultural differences.