Showing a Different Facet of Saudi Arabia in Rajaa Alsanea's Girls of Riyahd

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Rajaa Alsanea presents her readers with a society, Saudi Arabia, which is often labelled as archaic and suppressive. However, her novel, Girls of Riyadh (2007), portrays another facet of Saudi Arabia. The author takes Saudi society as standpoint to offer an insider’s account of the situations and conditions of four Saudi girlfriends; Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle and Lamees. Although the four highly fashionable and stylish girls from the ‘velvet class’ lead a modern life, they still oscillate between their desire for freedom and cultural patriarchal norms that they have internalised. Although Saudi Arabia is claimed to be ‘Islamic’, Islamic feminists argue that Muslim men wrongly interpret the Islamic traditions and Koran to uphold their misogynistic values.
History of Saudi Arabia

To be able to understand the prevailing situation in the Saudi system, it is essential to scrutinize different elements of Saudi Arabian history. Amongst the dominant paradigms patriarchy is a legacy of tribal history. Before the advent of Islam, Saudi Arabia was well-known as the “Jahiliyya” that is the ‘age of ignorance’. During this era, there was an absence of political structure with proper constitution. The societal constructions depended primarily on the tribal communities which embodied several clans. The leader of each tribe was called a ‘Sheikh’ who was selected according to their physical strength and character and he had absolute authority over every individual.

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