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

Qanta Ahmed
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 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: 1825 KB
  • Print Length: 467 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks; 1 edition (Sept. 1 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003BLY772
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,662 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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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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2.0 out of 5 stars There are better books out there on this topic Nov. 16 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
She's a doctor, not an author. She tells a lot of stories about other people, but you spend most the book wondering who she is. The writing style is a bit odd. It's kind of unusual in that she describes inequity but doesn't seem all that outraged, and even further commits herself to the Islamic religion. So there isn't a strong POV to get behind. Because of this, I felt like she was picking and choosing what stories to share. For instance, no stories of domestic violence on women even though she was working in the ER, which I find hard to believe.
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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  387 reviews
73 of 74 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.
113 of 127 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!
112 of 126 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.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and poignant story brought down by poor writing July 17 2011
By Emily - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased "In the Land of Invisible Women" because I was interested in learning about Saudi Arabia and how women's rights were influenced by Sharia law. In this respect, the book succeeded. I am taken aback by some of the rights that women in Saudi Arabia are denied. For example, women cannot drive, which effectively places their comings and goings in the hand of male relatives. I believe that this book is a good read for the informational value alone. I think that people in the West should read and learn about the harrowing situation in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries so that we can oppose the oppression of women there.

However, I was distracted by all of the flaws in the book and the author's writing style. For one, the book was WAY too long. It could have been more effective at around 200 pages (instead of 400). The author threw in tons of superfluous writing and felt the need to be overly descriptive, so much that it went on for pages and pages. Furthermore, I feel that Qanta is fairly unlikeable throughout the narrative. She is often nosy and overly judgmental of her Saudi friends. She often wavers on her opinions, sometimes deeply condemning the laws in Saudi Arabia, and other times supporting the laws for keeping her safe and railing against Western courtship ideals. The last thing, which others have pointed out, is that she seemed oddly preoccupied with designer fashion and wealth, which did little to add to the narrative.

Overall, I would recommend this book just for sheer information value. I enjoyed, but despite its relatively many flaws, I can give it only 3 stars.
25 of 25 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.
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