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In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
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In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom [Kindle Edition]

Qanta Ahmed
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This memoir is a journey into a complex world readers will find fascinating and at times repugnant. After being denied a visa to remain in the U.S., British-born Ahmed, a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin, takes advantage of an opportunity, before 9/11, to practice medicine in Saudi Arabia. She discovers her new environment is defined by schizophrenic contrasts that create an absurd clamorous clash of modern and medieval.... It never became less arresting to behold. Ahmed's introduction to her new environment is shocking. Her first patient is an elderly Bedouin woman. Though naked on the operating table, she still is required by custom to have her face concealed with a veil under which numerous hoses snake their way to hissing machines. Everyday life is laced with bizarre situations created by the rabid puritanical orthodoxy that among other requirements forbids women to wear seat belts because it results in their breasts being more defined, and oppresses Saudi men as much as women by its archaic rules. At times the narrative is burdened with Ahmed's descriptions of the physical characteristics of individuals and the luxurious adornments of their homes but this minor flaw is easily overlooked in exchange for the intimate introduction to a world most readers will never know. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Ahmed was saddened, distressed, and taken aback by her colleagues' excitement in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Her friends talked about how America "deserved" this tragedy because of its support of Israel.
(ForeWord 2008-08-01)

Denied visa renewal in America, British-born Pakistani physician Ahmed, 31, leaves New York for a job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where she celebrates her Muslim faith on an exciting Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca... After 9/11, she is shocked at the widespread anti-Americanism. The details of consumerism, complete with Western brand names .... are central to this honest memoir about connections and conflicts, and especially the clamorous clash of "modern and medieval, . . . Cadillac and camel." (Booklist 2008-07-01)

A big-hearted examination of the extreme contradictions in a society very different-yet not so different-from our own. (Kirkus 2008-07-01)

"Despite the restrictive customs of Saudi's religious rule, Ahmed found a vibrancy that left her hopeful. 'Saudi is much more heterogeneous than one would expect,' she says. 'Muslims themselves feel fairly lost in a country so caricatured and vilified for its severe austerity and Wahhabi theocracy, but it's also the cradle of Islam and the site of the Hajj-a symbol of what Islam could be.'" (Kirkus 2008-08-01)

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 923 KB
  • Print Length: 467 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1402210876
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks; 1 edition (Sept. 1 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003BLY772
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #77,468 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read Feb. 22 2011
By M. LeB
While this book has several slow-paced chapters, the overall story was interesting. The description of everyday life in the KSA was accurate and very well written. Dr. Qanta's medical perspective on relations between men and women in the hospital where she worked was also very interesting.
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My note to the author:

I just wanted to let you know that I found your book to be a fair, and enlightening portrayal of life in Saudi. Having spent some time there, I felt your experiences were representative of what women go through, all while identifying the hopeful signs that reason will prevail and trump narrow interpretations of a beautiful faith. Your time at Hajj was beautiful, and I could relate a lot!

Anyway, thanks for writing the book - more literature from that part of the world is needed - not just for Western audiences but for those living within the Kingdom - to create a cultural space where thoughts and ideas can be explored and built upon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful & Beautifully-written March 3 2009
Rating: 4.5

After being denied a visa to stay in the United States, Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed, a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin, embraces the opportunity to practice medicine in Saudi Arabia. In this book, Dr. Ahmed describes her experiences while living in The Saudi Kingdom as a doctor, and more specifically a female doctor. Though the book chronicles Dr. Ahmed's personal journey, it also represents the lives of so many other oppressed women who are forced to abide by strict rulings or else face the harsh consequences. Dr. Ahmed gives those women a voice and speaks out against this kind of treatment. Through her own observations, Dr. Ahmed learns a great deal about life in The Saudi Kingdom and most importantly, she learns a lot about herself. We also see that although the men often live privileged lives in relation to the women, they also have their own share of obstacles and challnges they must endure.

This is an important story because it perfectly demonstrates that major inequalities between men and women are still rampant in some parts of the world. What Dr. Ahmed witnessed and had to face is a reality for many women and a true testament to their strength and courage. This book took me through a range of emotions, including anger, sadness and amazement. Not only is the story incredibly powerful, Dr. Ahmed's writing is really beautiful. I loved the writing style as and the way she managed to transport me into her experiences. I felt her outrage, her pain and her frustration as though I was living it as well.

While reading the book there were times when I felt that Dr. Ahmed went into too much detail and perhaps less would have been more in some cases.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  303 reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in Saudi the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly Sept. 17 2009
By Sara M. Gnbaz - Published on
As a Saudi female myself and lived my whole life in this country I found it a very detailed book, you could really understand how life is in the Kingdom and Islam, as Dr. Ahamd in my opinion reflects the true meaning of a moderate Muslim. It's beautifully written and I do recommend it for those who want to have a sense of life in Saudi Arabia and Islam.
100 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue for ALL Amercians (not just women) to read Oct. 2 2008
By theguvn'r - Published on
This book is a fascinating account of the experiences of a Muslim female physician, educated in the U.K. and America. What is amazing is that Saudi Arabia has been our 'ally' and formidable trading partner, but that 99.9% of have us have no clue as to the ideological and spiritual compass of the people of this country. We just know they are our 'friends' and that our 'friends' spawned a terrorist named Osama Bin Laden (then again, Tim McVeigh used to work at WalMart). This book gives great insight into the value system and machinations of this culture and its religion, and presents some historical perspective on how its modern day presence evolved. The book is not the first but one of the best narratives of the shocking disparity between men and women in Saudi society. Dr. Ahmed described her experiences with colour, insight, and perspective. Yet she refrains from coarse judgment, appropriately so, as the modern Saudi people are proud and principled society. Hopefully our next President (and Vice president) will bring it to the White House Book Club!
90 of 103 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars working draft of a fine book Aug. 5 2009
By JAF - Published on
I almost gave up on this book after just a few pages, frustrated by the sub-par writing and editing. Editing is one of those jobs that's invisible when done well. Not here.
But: I'm glad I kept reading. The substance of the book is compelling and important, and the author's perspective is sane and intelligent.
If you adjust your expectations of writing as art, you can enjoy and appreciate this book. I only wish it were dystopian fiction and not 21st century reality.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Visit to Saudi Arabia Sept. 20 2008
By Frank S. Wells - Published on
In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
Dr. Ahmed provides an intimate look at life in Saudi Arabia through the eyes of a highly trained female physician. She graciously dealt with the severe restraints upon her personal and professional life there because of her being a woman, and described encouraging views of some significant challenges to them. I was especially touched by her description of the Hajj which had a profound effect on her as it put her in touch with her Muslim roots. Having lived for eight years in Indonesia in the sixties I was particularly impressed with the contrast between these two Muslim countries. During my time in Indonesia women enjoyed a great deal of freedom, and freedom of religion was guaranteed by the constitution.
54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Cinematic - This would make a great movie! Sept. 8 2008
By Peter Wentworth - Published on
I read this over the weekend, based on the Dianne Rheme interview and I couldn't put it down. The language is very descriptive in a very personal and equally unconventional way. There are dozens of images and scenes that I can picture vividly.

This was a real joy!
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