ing a captivating book I picked up by chance at library closing time. Whilst it’s fiction, I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about Saudi Arabia and the Islamic culture. According to the story in City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris.
– women can’t work unless married. Inevitably they lie, and if they are found out, stop working
– women get a trousseau upon marriage, filled with countless under garments. How bizarre when the rest of a woman other than family and a wife are covered in scarves and robes.
– there are ‘summer marriages’ – travelling business men marry a co-wife and travel with her. Because they are married, no harm, no foul. They divorce after the summer. The religious clerics think this is preferable to prostitution, though it is similar, as women are often paid by a new car or a villa
– women get driven places, by brothers or cousins. What and how these men manage it, I’m not sure. The women will travel as a passenger in the back seat! This is juztaposed in the book with the women who work with the police being allowed to sit in the front, which is a shock to the women to be seen as ‘equal’
– one female character married her mother’s friend’s son, for about 2.5 months. After the mother’s death, the marriage dissolves. The woman returns to living with her brother – and essentially being ‘kept’ by him, but she still returns to the ex husband for money too.
– women often are left standing when the men sit face to face (ie when two people come to visit someone in an office). That just seems perverse but awkward too!
– men don’t make eye contact with women, often looking above them, at their ‘halo’
– there’s men’s and women’s sitting rooms within homes. It’s common to take guests their (segregated by sex). The Arab characters find it strange that the two American female characters both take them into the kitchen.
– a man invited to dine with a family will not actually get to ‘see’ the woman, except perhaps if she comes to serve tea! They stay in their sitting room, and the women in the kitchen with the children.
– the story gives the perception that Arab wives provide martial obligations on a daily basis. If this is true, I’m thankful that such an obligation isn’t extended more widely…
Overall, I’m enchanted by other cultures. I’m blown away that I manage 60 (was 75 before redundancies) men and I’m a woman. Who wears what I like (but chose to be conservative with work wear). In another part of the world, TODAY, women have none of these liberties. How amazing that globalisation hasn’t totally caused homogenization (is that the right word?)
Isn’t the internet grand – I was too lazy to go to the bedroom to check the author, so googled, and was delighted to find there’s another two books by this author which I’ll promptly want to read.
Also, those who blog book reviews, do you have a ‘weirdness’ about wanting to post the exact cover picture of your book, not an alternative one? My cover images was more orangey, not at all the one I put above.