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Girls of Riyadh

3.22  ·  Rating details ·  17,683 ratings  ·  2,277 reviews
When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world.

Now in English, Alsanea’s tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 5th 2007 by Fig Tree (first published 2005)
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Lady H I keep thinking she's actually Um Nuwayirra (or however you spell her name!) even though the author says that she is a "young woman"...…moreI keep thinking she's actually Um Nuwayirra (or however you spell her name!) even though the author says that she is a "young woman"...(less)
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Ayman Hasan
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.22  · 
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 ·  17,683 ratings  ·  2,277 reviews

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Karen Keyworth
Dec 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: young Arab women
I think the author wrote a true account of life in Saudi Arabia. I am married to a Saudi, and I didn't find anything she wrote about to be in conflict with what I know from my 29 years of marriage, experience in SA, and extended family. Most importantly,her story rings true based on what my children (who are now the same age as the author) have told me about the private world of young people. It's an exciting peek into the inner world of young Saudi women, and that is enough to make it worth the ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it did not like it
Save for the last 3 chapters, Girls of Riyadh by Raja Alsanea was a huge let down. Sensationalized and immature, the author is clearly looking to cash in on the western stereotypes of the east. The 4 female protagonists act in the most predictable, girly-movie way.
The story did nothing for me, didn't enlighten me to the supposedly hidden side of the Arab way of life and society, as the author promised in many interviews. The author assumes this self-important, holier-than-thou tone that got so a
Ava Semerau
Jun 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People curious about life in Saudi Arabia and Saudi women
When this book first came out, I was living in Saudi Arabia and it caused quite a stir - so much so that it was banned in Kingdom. I was teaching ESL at the time, and the women in my classes were frantic to get their hands on a copy of it. Turns out the enthusiasm they felt was short lived - as in as soon as they started reading it.

The book is written as a series of emails between a group of young Saudi women, and to folks who, like my students, had little experience reading fiction, it seemed
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Girls Of Riyadh
Where could i possibly begin?
I will begin with the first time I saw it on the "Best Sellers" shelf in one of our local bookshops in Kuwait. The cover attracted me so I grabbed it and read few lines of random pages of the book and ended up liking it but i did not buy it at the time and bought "Shadow Kiss, Vampire Academy" Instead. Each time I paid a visit to the same bookshop I saw it there, laying then grabbed it and hesitated to buy it. Again. Until One time I visited Jareer's
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book on several levels. I'll try to clearly explain why:
1. I like books set in India and the Middle East. This book is set in Saudi Arabia. Most of what I know about Saudi Arabia comes from what I hear on the nightly news, so it's interesting to read a book written by a Saudi woman. It's a completely different culture, but this book is about far more than just war and inequality, it's also about culture and mores.

2.It's pretty much chick lit set in the Middle East, which I
Sep 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: saudi-arabia, romance
This was an interesting peep into upper class Saudi culture. Many of the love stories mirrored those of my friends around 10 years ago. Of course, most are now settled into semi-forced marriages. Of course, there are major differences because the law protects Indian women and there is a lot more freedom that belongs to us by birth, unlike in Saudi. But as far as love and marriage are concerned, I could see a lot of similarities, especially in the way men reacted when the family pressure started. ...more
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had a hard time reading this book for several reasons. First, it was never intended to be translated into English and by doing so I'm sure the author had to provide tons of extra passages of explanation about Arabic culture to the english speaking readers. Second, I'll openly admit that it is not a well written book (in English)-- it reads like a middle school essay on 'how I spent my summer'. But that aside, this was an interesting exploration into a culture that I know very little about, eve ...more
Ayala Levinger
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I don't know how I should rate this book. Does a disappointing end weight more or less than an enjoyable book till this end?
It was a quick read and interesting. what was interesting was not that I learned a lot about saudi society because I knew nothing about it and not that I realized how saudi society resembles every other society that is not religious but the interesting part was that Rajaa Alsanea the saudi writer of this book is pretty sure that saudi society is different and specialy extr
La Petite Américaine Cash App: $Covid2020sucks
Aug 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: SATC Idiots
Recommended to La Petite Américaine by: No one. Should have paid more attention to Khaya's review
Shelves: sucked, middle_east
This author has watched and adored Sex and the City so much that she decided to write her own book about it, with the backdrop of Riyadh instead of Manhattan. No, it doesn't say that anywhere in the book, but it's obvious enough from reading it.

So, four superficial girls with too much money, who can't appreciate the lives and opportunities they have (I boldly assume it's better to be filthy rich in Saudi Arabia, as the characters are, than poor), whine about equally superficial stories, includin
Shaikha Alahmad
Nothing that you haven't read before and definitely not as scandalous as everyone think it is. ...more
Nojood Alsudairi
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arabic-books, fiction
I like this book as it gives a portratit of "some" of the Saudi girls' lives and views. We are used to non-Saudis writing about Saudis and imposing thier own points of view. Assanea is a Saudi writing about a generation she knows very well, for a change! ...more
Gehad Hasanin
Feb 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
I saw this book in the bookstore's brochure, and heck I didn't even bother to know what it talks about [title issues:]. But a friend of mine bought it and brought it to school so I actually started reading the first few pages, only out of curiosity.

The story and the plot are okay, but not for the kind of purpose and the kind of place the book is meant for. The author wants to reveal to those in the West how the girls of Saudi Arabia go beyond the limits of their religion and rules and perform ac
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is edible. I just couldn’t put it down. I think the best and worst thing about it was its format, which is written as blog-like emails introducing each very short section following one of the four girlfriends of the novel. While the emails emulate something informal and ritualistic in many of our daily lives, making it easy to slip into each segment, the segments themselves hop from one character to the next and are only a few pages long. The book doesn’t really read as disjunct but be ...more
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Girls of Riyadh is a sweet and charming peek into the world that most people outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will never know. Back in the 1980s I spent 11 months in Riyadh and although the women were not free to have conversations with me often each time I rode the public busses they quickly began questioning me in broken English about my life in a world so different from their own. Those busses with the separate door and wall separating us from the men were such an offense to me at the t ...more
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful read.

The Girls of Riyadh is a contemporary novel set in Saudi Arabia about a group of girls from the „elite“ class of people in Saudi Arabia. It is written in Gossip Girl like style, with a woman writing e-mails to many internet users in Saudi Arabia anonymously, telling them about the lives of her four friends Gamrah, Sadeem, Lamees and Michelle. They are dating, shopping, driving cars, watching American TV and so on, while still trying to be good Muslim girls and pleasing thei
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Many years ago I received an unexpected marriage proposal from a man I’d met just a couple of hours earlier. My speedy admirer was an outrageously handsome Saudi Arabian working for an international oil company.

“I’ve never met anyone like you before,” he said, and I thought to myself, “Yep, I can totally believe that”.

“Marry me and come to Saudi, you’ll never have to work again and I’ll brew alcohol in the bath for you”.

It’s not every day you get an offer like that; a good looking meal-ticket an
Feb 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Following four wealthy teenage Saudi girls, in some ways this book seems like an Arab Gossip Girls or something along those lines. However, it goes deeper than just the parties and wealth, and ultimately horrifies with its depiction of the horrendous prison in which Saudi males force Saudi females to live. The men in this book perform actions that would classify them as psychopaths in most cultures--following girls they are courting in separate cars whereever they go just to "be close to them", ...more
Zaynäb Book  Minimalist
Oct 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
I find it very difficult to understand why Arab female writers always feel the need to write books on Feminism, polygamy and all the other boring stuff.

Literature is wide, you don't have to restrict yourself to a topic that has been used and overwrought. There are plenty of other interesting stories/themes about Muslim/Saudi women people would like to read.

Having said that, while the beginning of the book was fantastic, the last pages were immature and stupid.

The author lost the plot at a poin
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this, really. But the immaturity of the writing made this a struggle. This happened and then this happened and then also this happened, very little internal discussions or motivations. Everything happened at a far remove so there wasn't much emotional investment. Now, whether this is a writing issue, a format issue, or a translation issue; that's just a big question.

I will say this was an interesting look at a very small and specific slice of life in Saudia Arabia. But the read
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ladies, if you want to get a little idea of how woman deal with their social lives here in the Kingdom, I recommend this book.
It is a bunch of emails written by a Saudi girl who decided to share her friends deepest secrets. I can't tell you that everything is true but from what I have seen so far, the marriage part is true.
Yesterday I was pretty sure I saw a woman driving in Jeddah, the car was going crazy in a very small street, and the windows were super tinted, but the driver was veiled all
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I saw this book at Costco it immediately caught my attention. It looked pretty interesting, but after being burned a number of times buying books by unfamiliar authors I wasn't sure I should get it. But I did and was glad I did.
Each chapter of the book is purported to be an e-mail from the author to a group of unknown people in Saudi Arabia who have indicated interest. The first part of each chapter is generally the author responding to criticism or other comments from those who have read t
Mar 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Jane magazine
This is essentially Saudi chick lit, but I really liked it despite that.

The stories can resound with any girl,(unless my love life is really that fucked up that nobody agrees with this,) but there's also a special twist that makes this different from the run-of-the mill girly stories. The girls bring life living in an Islamic kingdom to the table, and what that means to their freedoms or lack thereof in relationships. As women, we all suffer a lot at the hands of men, no matter how strong of a p
3 1/2 Stars. Not bad at all really. Saudi Arabian chic lit. For me there was not really anything new, so that why I'm not giving it a higher rating, but it's actually quite cleverly written. ...more
I enjoyed the Girls of Riyadh. It is not the most literary piece of work, but it is a fun read. It gives you a glimpse of the dating scene, or lack thereof, in Saudi Arabia. The book is a series of emails written by an anonymous young lady about her four friends, Michelle (Mashael), Gamrah, Lamees, and Sadeem. The story goes through the trials and tribulations of their love lives. You have one who tried and failed at the arranged marriage, and had to live life marked as a divorcee, which apparen ...more
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Die-hard fans of books about the lives of Middle Eastern women
Recommended to K by: my mother-in-law
In the words of one goodreads reviewer, this book is basically "Sex in the City" meets the Middle East. This juvenile book follows four young Saudi women through a series of superficial, mostly ill-fated romances. There's an interesting gimmick in that it's narrated by a Saudi woman, ostensibly a friend of the foursome, who posts their stories anonymously in a series of e-mails sent out to a group of subscribers.

Although the stories were somewhat repetitive and kind of dumb, this book provided
Dana Al-Basha دانة الباشا
Have you ever watched or read Gossip Girl? Well, this is the Arabic version.

Girls of Riyadh is a very captivating story. I read some part of it in English but when I knew it was originally written in Arabic, I bought the Arabic version and devoured it. Such an interesting intense read.

Very sad, real and captivating. I absolutely loved it. Though I think the end was rushed and incomplete.

Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I loved this book. I borrowed it from a friend and it got me hooked after a few pages! It had a bitter-sweet aftertaste, that I couldn't read any other book for a couple of days after I finished it. It made me ponder on what it is like for women living in the Middle East.
The four friends, whose stories are told in a series of emails, had very different personalities from outgoing to conservative, but they were all relatable. I loved the author's ironic tone which subtly criticised their naivete
Having worked a lot with young female Saudi students, I read about half of "Girls of Riyadh", skimming the rest, and found it revealing (to others who don't know the Saudi culture) as to the relations between men and women there. Of course, Rajaa deals with the upper middle class of Riyadh. Not a bad read, if you are posted to Saudi Arabia or the Emirates. It gives you a feel of how the urban young deal with each other in a very conservative society. ...more
Dec 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5 ✨ why not 4? Cuz the version I read was full of mistakes ! I liked the way she put an introduction before each single email (the idea itself of sending emails for technically everyone there was just... brilliant !!), the subject treated took a place in Saudi Arabia, but I'm sure we can hear similar stories in Algeria too ! Anyway,it was a nice journey (even if I wanted to know wht happens next to Michele).
Sumit Singla
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is so stereotypical of everything the Western world seems to think about Saudi Arabia. I don't even want to write too much detail except that the characters are shallow and the book reads a bit like 'Sex and the City' with a Middle Eastern twist. ...more
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Reading the World: Girls of Riyadh - Spoilers 11 13 Feb 19, 2019 11:57AM  

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Rajaa Alsanea (Arabic: رجاء الصانع‎; variant spelling Rajaa al-Sanea)is a Saudi writer who became famous through her novel Girls of Riyadh, or Banat al-Riyadh. The book was first published in Lebanon in 2005 and in English in 2007. The book was long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award in 2009. Al-Sanea grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the daughter of a family of doctors. She currently lives in Ch ...more

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