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In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta…

In the Land of Invisible Women (2008)

by Qanta Ahmed

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5639026,070 (3.67)60
  1. 10
    Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson (Mrs.Stansbury)
    Mrs.Stansbury: Each book glimpses life behind the veils of women in Saudi Arabia and reveals unique views and different perspectives. If you enjoy one you'll enjoy the other.
  2. 10
    In Her own Words: Oral histories of Women Physicians by Regina Markell Morantz (pensivepoet)
  3. 00
    Paramedic to the Prince: An American Paramedic's Account of Life Inside the Mysterious World of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Patrick (Tom) Notestine (meggyweg)
  4. 00
    Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Both books are well written and describe how women cope under Islamic law. Some of the details are surprising. The difference between the 2 authors is that Qanta Ahmed is a western-educated muslim trained as a physician. I think she has a somewhat more intimate perspective on the women she meets compared to Geraldine Brooks. However, both books are very good.… (more)
  5. 01
    Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital by Heidi Squier Kraft (infiniteletters)
    infiniteletters: Contrasting cultures, but similar medical perspectives. Do no harm.

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Interesting most of the time to read about life Saudi Arabia and about Mecca. But Qanta dwells too much on her feelings for the Saudi doctor (whose name I forget) and her fondness for big words is annoying. ( )
  siok | Oct 4, 2018 |
In one of the worst countries in the world for women, Pakistani Dr. Qanta discovers what's under the veil (lots of spirit and makeup) and what's in her heart (a newfound love of Islam). She takes a two year assignment at a hospital for royalty in Saudi Arabia, where, like all women, she is not permitted to leave her home without a abaya (full length robe), headscarf, and a male escort, and where Sharia law is strictly enforced.

Dr. Qanta makes a point of meeting other female medical professionals, both native and ex-pats, and comparing notes. She's roused by the strong feminism she finds but discouraged at the impossibly slow pace of change, and intimidated by the brutal religious police, who patrol even the female only areas and seem to also have the even Saudi royals running scared. And then there's the oil wealthy idle scions/dudebros who race their expensive sports cars down every street, killing themselves others in crashes with nary a regret or a penalty.

During her assignment, she falls in love with a Saudi doctor and makes the Hajj to Mecca twice. The passages on Hajj reminded me of the only other description of the solemn ritual I've ever read, that of Malcolm X in his autobiography. They both found incredible love and solidarity with other Muslims, but Dr. Qatar also is scorned by ultra conservative fellow female pilgrims, until she ministers to an ill woman who is one of the masses who cannot afford the luxury of a first class (complete with an air conditioned tent) pilgrimage experience.

In general, the doctor never encounters any poor Saudis, and in fact, does not seek out anyone like the Filipinas and Indonesian women who comprise the servant classes. This is a weakness in the narrative. Perhaps her position is that Saudi life is miserable enough for wealthy women - even with their luxury autos and goods - that there's no reason to meet anyone who'd make her feel even more, or less, privileged.

This is a valuable look at an awful place, swamped with the tribalism that seems forever married to Islam in a Wahhabi world. ( )
  froxgirl | May 10, 2018 |
"Unexpectedly denied a visa to remain in the United States, Qanta Ahmed, a
young British Muslim doctor, becomes an outcast in motion. On a whim, she
accepts an exciting position in Saudi Arabia. This is not just a new job; this
is a chance at adventure in an exotic land she things she understands, a place
she hopes she will belong. What she discovers is vastly different. The Kingdom
is a world apart, a land of unparalleled contrast. She finds rejection and
scorn in the places she believed would most embrace her, but also humor,
honesty, loyalty, and love. And for Qanta, more than anything, it is a land of
opportunity. A place where she discovers what it takes for one woman to
re-create herself in the land of invisible women." --back cover
  collectionmcc | Mar 6, 2018 |
Quanta Ahmed is a British-born Muslim woman who considers herself a New Yorker. She accepts a two-year position as an ICU physician in a Saudi Arabian hospital in 1999-2000. Her first task is to purchase an abbayah, the head-to-toe covering she will wear every time she steps outside her home or the hospital she works in. Despite the western educations of many of her colleagues, the sexism and religious extremism she experiences are shocking. As an American it's hard to comprehend a society where men won't look a woman in the eye or shake her hand. Women are not allowed to drive, be in the company of a man not their husbands, rent a hotel room, or travel outside the country without the consent of a male family member. Somehow despite the repression and disrespect, she is able to strengthen her Muslim faith. While the insight into such a different society was fascinating, I found it hard to understand how she could remain friends with those who revealed themselves not only as sexist, but also outspokenly racist. ( )
  LeslieHurd | Jan 11, 2017 |
You know, I really, really wanted to love this book. It starts with Dr. Ahmed treating a woman in a hospital in Saudi Arabia who is covered head to toe in traditional garb, with her son hovering in the background. I thought, Oh, wow, how exciting! What did she think about how women are treated in daily life? What other patients did she treat that were in similar circumstances, and what where her thoughts about them?" But you know, after that first insight into her new world, and a wonderful description about her trip over to Saudi Arabia and her initial settling in, the book fell into a set of unlinked vignettes about different incidents she lived and different people she encountered.

The lead-up in the first few paragraphs of a chapter would start a story, then the rest of the pages would go into great detail about the social and political situation in Saudi Arabia, then the narrative would wrap up with her thoughts about it in the last paragraph or two. On the surface, this does sound like what I was wanting to get out of the book, doesn't it? But it felt especially disjointed - here we have a night in a restaurant with a group of colleagues that turns into a terrifying encounter with a group of the Mutawaeen, the authoritarian clerics-cum-police who harass men and women for any unorthodox behaviors or improper wearing of the abbayah, the traditional robed dress of women in Saudi Arabia (the chapter entitled "Wahabi Wrath," pp. 229-248). But the conversations sound contrived (I know, she's probably trying to recreate the scenes from that night), and after the dramatic raid on the restaurant by the Mutawaeen, Dr. Ahmed goes into such detail about the backstory of the Mutawaeen's rise to authoritarian power that the dramatic impact of the scene in the restaurant kind of fades into the background.

In addition, the amount of space/pages she gives to her remarkable first journey to Mecca on her Hajj is almost excessive. I'm thrilled that she was able to go onto her religious pilgrimage - it really tied together the many threads of Islam for her and was an amazing spiritual and religious experience - just so overly detailed. I know, I'm probably being unfair to a brilliant doctor who took the time to note her phenomenal experiences in the home of Islam, but with a little more editing and structure, I think this book could have been a much better read.

Perhaps the history and background of the current Saudi Arabian culture could have been the first third of the book, followed by the different vignettes? And to have some sense of a timeline - perhaps the chapter sequence is supposed to mean that first she met with the Saudi women who dance alone (Chapter 6), then she dealt with a father's grieving (Chapter 9), but the incidents/events do not have any tie-in to one another so I found no sense of continuity. But I will say, her observations of the people around her were top-notch and that is the area in which her book shines." ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
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For my parents, who gave me my Islam and my love of words.

And for Joan Kirschenbaum Cohn, who shows me how to live, as a better woman, as a better Muslim.
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Seeking respite from the intensity of medicine, I trained my eye on the world without.
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Book description
When unexpectedly denied a visa to remain in the United States, Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a British born Muslim woman, made the decision to spend two years working in one of the finest hospitals in the world, located in Riyadh. Her first non-fiction book, In the Land of Invisible Women, (Sept 2, 2008) is a memoir that recounts her startling experiences while practicing medicine in the Saudi Kingdom. Fascinating and revelatory, Qanta provides a telling picture of what life is truly like in the Saudi Kingdom, from a unique perspective. She describes:

* How hospital patients reportedly clapped when the planes slammed into the twin towers on 9/11
* How men and women find marriage partners in a society that allows no dating and physical contact, and where they flee to have affairs
* How Saudi women who are supported by advanced thinking parents and who must wear abbayas with their bodies fully encased are able to defy the Saudi's oppressive rules and mores to become physicians
* How she worked side-by-side with Wahabi scholars and physicians who seemed to shun her even in clinical contact
* Why the religious police are so threatening and dangerous
* How a father grieves
* As well as encounters with sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, sycophancy

And she evokes, too, the moments where she finds tenderness and beauty when she would least expect it. And finally, she goes on a Hajj, a journey to Mecca with 2.5 million other Muslims, a privilege required by every able-bodied Muslim in his or her lifetime. For her, it becomes a life-changing moment that inspires and sanctifies her commitment to the Muslim faith.
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"This memoir is a journey into a complex world readers will find fascinating and at times repugnant. After being denied a visa to remain in the U.S., British-born Ahmed, a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin, takes advantage of an opportunity, before 9/11, to practice medicine in Saudi Arabia. She discovers her new environment is defined by schizophrenic contrasts that create an absurd clamorous clash of modern and medieval... It never became less arresting to behold. Ahmed's introduction to her new environment is shocking. Her first patient is an elderly Bedouin woman. Though naked on the operating table, she still is required by custom to have her face concealed with a veil under which numerous hoses snake their way to hissing machines. Everyday life is laced with bizarre situations created by the rabid puritanical orthodoxy that among other requirements forbids women to wear seat belts because it results in their breasts being more defined, and oppresses Saudi men as much as women by its archaic rules. At times the narrative is burdened with Ahmed's descriptions of the physical characteristics of individuals and the luxurious adornments of their homes but this minor flaw is easily overlooked in exchange for the intimate introduction to a world most readers will never know" -- Publishers Weekly.… (more)

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