A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia

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Basics on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

>Climate: harsh, dry desert with great extremes of temperature

>Government: Absolute Monarchy (Al Sa'ud family)

>Legal System and Constition: Based on Islamic Law

>Religion: 100% Muslim (none other allowed)

>Language: Arabic, some English for business

Author's Purpose

> give insight to the outrage that is forced upon Saudi Arabian women

> document the vile experiences of Princess Sultana and other Saudi Arabian women

> help invoke a change of the treatment of women in the Middle East

> shows the way women are treated in the Middle East even when embellished with wealth and royalty

Aspects of Culture

Women in Saudi Arabia do not have equal rights with men.

>Saudi Arabia was ranked 129th out of 134 countries for gender equality.

>Saudi law states that every adult woman must have a male relative as her “guardian”.

>In court, one man’s testimony is equal to two women’s.

>Men are allowed up to four wives, while women are only allowed one husband.

> Women are required to wear an abbaya and niqab in public.

> The Koran is the holy book of Islam. There are 114 Suras, or chapters, that all set forth acceptable conduct for people of the Muslim faith.

>There is no separation of religion in the Muslim world of Saudi Arabia, Islamic religion is the absolute law.

Effect of the Structure

> uses first person to directly connect with the reader (personal)

> takes place during childhood and early adulthood (shows cruel upbringing)

>provides basic information of Saudi Arabia in the beginning (factual)

>many letters from Sasson and the Princess in the beginning and end of novel (realistic)

>helps connect the reader to Sultana's childhood and invoke sympathy within them

>displays a horrific effect on the reader as they learn of the Princess' life (directly)


  • "death"
  • "mindless"
  • "cloister"
  • "bleak"
Sasson uses these words to create negative connotations in the text. (execution of girl)

  • "gaiety"
  • "grand"
  • "gilded"
  • "adorned"
Sasson uses these words to create positive connotations in the text. (marriage)


"...drawn and anguished howl of someone I had known, a woman who had embodied the life and hope of our land, a woman now living in utter blackness, without sight or sound to sustain her life" (194-195).

"The long hallways were dark and forbidding. Rooms of various shapes and sizes branched off, concealing the secrets of our lives...Dark red velvet curtains closed out the sunlight. A smell of Turkish tobacco and whiskey embraced the heavy atmosphere...Mother had the room painted a bright yellow; as a result, it had the glow of life that was so glaringly absent in the rest of the villa" (12).

>paints a picture of Sultana's wealth

>invokes sympathy in the reader by giving a horrifying picture of the punishment women are subject to

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Figurative Language

>Sasson uses many metaphors in her writing to show different sides of Princess Sultana, the speaker of the novel

>the metaphors trigger emotions in the reader and draws attention to the specific details used

“I would be the beneficiary of great love and dark hate. I was a force of good and evil. I was an enigma to all who loved me” (109).


Jean Sasson included the story of Princess Sultana’s puppy, Basem, to show the cruelty of her brother. Princess Sultana told Sasson that “the possibility of loving my brother was forever lost..” (26).

Princess Sultana Al Sa'ud's Current Status

Princess Sultana Al Sa'ud still lives in the royal house of Saudi Arabia. She has three grandchildren and is currently helping Sasson write more novels about women in the Middle East.

She says that things have gotten better for Saudi women recently, but many things are still the same and she hopes to make a difference.

The Future Of Women’s Rights In Saudi Arabia


Bedouin: original Arabs, nomadic desert people

Ghutra: Arabic cloth headdress worn by men

Haj: the pilgrimage of journey to Makkah

Hudud: crimes of serious nature

Ibn: “son of”

Koran: the Holy Book of Islamic faith

Mutawa: the morals police of Islam

Qisas: a crime committed against a person

Riyal: currency for Saudi Arabia

Sharia: the law of God

Sunna: traditions of islamic faith

Suras: chapters of the Koran
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Rebecca English for the Daily Mail. "Roast Baby Camel, Your Highness? Moment a Saudi Royal Offered 'delicacy' to Charles... and If HRH Got the Hump, He Didn't Let It Show." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

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TestTubeNetwork. "The Future Of Women's Rights In Saudi Arabia." YouTube. YouTube, 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

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