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Desert Royal - Jean Sasson

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Genre: Biography / Author: Jean Sasson / Edition: New Ed / Paperback / 309 Pages / Book is published 2004-10-01 by Bantam Books Ltd

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      26.11.2004 14:38
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      Having read Princess and Princess Sultana’s Daughters, I just had to finish the true life trilogy and buy Desert Royal by Jean Sasson. It can be quite confusing when purchasing this book because there is another title by Jean Sasson called Princess Sultana’s Circle which is, as I understand it, the American version of Desert Royal (or it could be vice versa!).

      So, Desert Royal continues the story of the life of Princess Sultana and her family – her husband Kareem and her two daughters Maha and Amani.

      As with the first two books, the author recounts the lifestyle of the fabulously wealthy royal Saudis which is all due to the exploration of oil in Saudi Arabia.

      When I first read Princess I was genuinely sympathetic towards Sultana but, after reading the trilogy, I do believe that she is just another pampered princess looking for a good cause to fight, albeit hers is a somewhat silent fight.

      Sasson again writes in a style which helps the reader to visualise the pampered lifestyle of the princess and other Saudi royals. Let us not forget that those of us in the “Western” world don’t readily understand the different culture of the Saudi people and these books are quite an eye-opener to their customs albeit so very different to ours. I still find it totally unacceptable the way females are treat and even bought as a possession to be used for sex. I feel real pity for the poor young girls from Asia who are sold by their poor parents to the rich Arabs as sex playthings to be discarded to another buyer after the “owner” becomes bored with them (any also after having taken the poor girl’s virginity). This book does actually bring to light that the sex/slave traffic in young girls is still alive – which I find totally abhorrent in this day and age!

      It also gives us another insight into the injustices against the female population whereby the word of the religious men is taken as true and the poor female hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of getting the Arabs to believe her side of the story. For example, a young girl from a wealthy family was swimming in her parents’ outdoor swimming pool in a bikini. Their neighbour’s son kept watching her swimming and told his father, a cleric, that the girl was flaunting herself to him and that she pulled down her bikini top to show him her breasts and that she should be punished. The girl’s father tried to help his daughter but, against the wrath of the religious cleric, had to be seen to punish her. She was married off to a Bedouin tribesman to live a poor and slavelike existence. How I felt for this poor girl.

      The book not only describes Sultana’s life but is very historical in parts and goes into quite some detail about the various Middle East conflicts that we have all seen on our TV screens in past years and in one section Sultana actually tells us her husband’s view on the fate of the Saudi royals which is rather startling.

      There are accounts which show Sultana’s frustration at her inability to help her fellow females and when she turns to a shopping spree in New York to try to alleviate her feelings I just felt sheer disgust. To spend just under US$400,000 on clothes etc. in a couple of days was just sheer and utter extravagance – she could so easily have helped her London servant financially to go to university which was her dream but the poor girl was working and sending money home to pay for her brother’s education. Sultana had the chance to redeem herself and help this servant but she chose not to.

      Alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia yet Sultana reveals that the majority of the royals have stocks of wine and spirits in their homes and she became an alcoholic. This just reveals that it is the usual practice that the rich get away with it whilst the poor don’t. An ordinary Saudi found drinking alcohol could most likely be put to death for such an action but no so the pampered royals.

      When Sultana’s family decided to “get back to their Bedouin roots” I thought perhaps she was going to be roughing it but oh no, not our Sultana and family. No, a cavalcade of approximately 25 Mercedes, Persian rugs and furniture were taken to make the experience comfortable together with a host of servants, fridges, food and water. How on earth could this experience be “getting back to their Bedouin roots” when they were being provided with such luxury? What a farce and Sultana really started to lose my respect.

      I did however gain a bit more respect for her when she battled to free a harem of young girls from one of her relations and when she actually did save the life of a young girl who had been bought by one of her nephews and who had been raped by this nephew and his friends whilst they were on the above mentioned trip to the desert. Sultana and her female relations did stand together against the males and rescued the poor unfortunate girl.

      I do understand that it cannot be easy for Sultana to do more but she doesn’t live the life of a normal Saudi female. She lives quite a privileged life, money is no object and she has the best of everything that money can buy but she is still not totally happy.

      Sasson has been very clever in her portrayal of Sultana’s life and she has managed to show us that Sultana, although struggling to fight for the freedom of her fellow female Saudis, can be just a tad irritating at times with her stories of obscenely expensive jewellery for herself and her daughters.

      This book just relates the story of a spoilt, pampered woman and doesn’t actually show us the true story of an ordinary Saudi woman. Don’t get me wrong, I do admire the fact that Sultana has actually tried to do something but we don’t see the real people of Saudi and I would have liked to have had a bird’s eye view of an ordinary female’s life in this country but then an ordinary female probably wouldn’t have the access to outsiders that has been granted to Sultana.

      However, I did enjoy reading the books and would definitely recommend you to read them.

      This book can be bought from most ordinary bookshops and from Amazon.co.uk. Prices vary but if you shop around you can get good deals.


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