Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox: it sits atop some of the richest oil deposits in the world, and yet the country's roiling disaffection produced 16 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. It is a modern state, driven by contemporary technology, and yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs and practices rolled back to match those of the Prophet Muhammad over a thousand years ago. In a world where events in the Middle East continue to have geopolitical consequences far beyond the region's boundaries, an understanding of this complex nation is essential.
With Inside the Kingdom, British journalist and best-selling author Robert Lacey has given us one of the most penetrating and insightful looks at Saudi Arabia ever produced. More than 20 years after he first moved to the country to write about the Saudis at the end of the oil boom, Lacey has returned to find out how the consequences of the boom produced a society at war with itself. Filled with stories told by a broad range of Saudis, from high princes and ambassadors to men and women on the street, Inside the Kingdom is in many ways the story of the Saudis in their own words.
It is a story of oil money that opened the door to Western ways, and produced a conservative backlash with effects that are still being felt today. It is a story of kings and princes who worried more about keeping power than the dangerous consequences of empowering radical clerics. It is a story of men who challenged orthodoxy and risked prison or death in the name of furthering open society, and of women who defied laws saying they should not write, drive, or play sports. And, at its heart, it is a story of a people attempting to reconcile the religious separatism of the past and the rapidly changing world with which they are increasingly intertwined. Their success - or failure - will have powerful reverberations in their own country, and across the globe.
©2009 Robert Lacey (P)2009 WF Howes Ltd
This is an excellent, well-researched book, which I felt gave an informative, balanced, insight into the rather mysterious Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
I must confess I knew very little about the country other than what I had gleaned in the press. This book certainly overturned an awful lot of my preconceptions and prejudices.
Although this is no rose-tinted view of the Kingdom,I felt the author cared about exposing the good & the bad (and sometimes the downright horrifying) in equal measures, with fairness and sympathy.
What the book does do is offer some historical and social background and puts recent events into context. I was left with the impression of having been offered a broad selection of points of view, from those of the ruling elite to those of the average citizen.
Robert Lacey knows how to tell a good story: the numerous, occasionally moving (and sometimes very funny) anecdotes that illustrate this book give the narrative immediacy. They also lend a certain lightness to this otherwise serious book and provide a glimpse of Saudi humour. It is an easy listen, made even more pleaseant by Andrew Wincott's reading - although I can't judge how good the Saudi accent is which he employs for certain of the anecdotes!
Kildonan by the sea
A must read if you are interested in history, politics, news, or religion
Most of us know a little about Saudi Arabia, but it arrives disjointed and full of that moments concerns, this book tries to shows us the context and the linearity of some of the history of the Kingdom, what it represents and tries to present to the modern world.
This is a country where witchcraft is prosecuted while driving in the latest Ferrari, A country where the poor and the rich are ruled by religion in every aspect of their lives, a place where the tribal culture is mixed with religious law and creates very large inequities and breeds strange strands of fundamentalist religion that are infecting the world, and spreading far from their place of origin. A place where clerics believe the earth is flat, but rule on an astronaut's diet and prayer, A place where whips and blades are used to to punish by law while the government has probably acquired atomic weapons to fight war.
What this book achieves best is to delineate how the very recent history of Saudi Arabia has influenced our present and most likely our future by all kind of serendipitous events and unforeseeable consequences created by remedies to its internal problems and by the nature of its religious belief system and the power of its money.
But this is done while humanizing and presenting all kind of evidence and anecdotes of the forces at play not in a cold one sided narrative but with the balanced care of an author that cares and respects the subject of his pen.
!979 is the catalyst and the beginning of a strand of islam to emerge out of the Kingdom and to metastasize into many brands and branches throughout the world; this is the part of the story that is most interesting and best represented by this fascinating book and the main reason I would read it again, because I think in it hides so much of our developing history.
Andrew Wincott reading bring the book to life and is a pleasure that makes a good book better.
narrator was great and the book is a joy to listen to. as an Iranian it is very important for me to get a better insight into our neighbours rather than listen to the sensationalist news media and government propaganda. This type of books are irreplaceable. highly recommended if you want to get a good view of this complex and intriguing society.
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