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In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom [Kindle Edition]

Qanta Ahmed
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (295 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"In this stunningly written book, a Western trained Muslim doctor brings alive what it means for a woman to live in the Saudi Kingdom. I've rarely experienced so vividly the shunning and shaming, racism and anti-Semitism, but the surprise is how Dr. Ahmed also finds tenderness at the tattered edges of extremism, and a life-changing pilgrimage back to her Muslim faith." - Gail Sheehy

The decisions that change your life are often the most impulsive ones.

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 thinks she understands, a place she hopes she will belong.

What she discovers is vastly different. The Kingdom is a world apart, a land of unparralled 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 recreate herself in the land of invisible women.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Denied visa renewal in America, British-born Pakistani physician Ahmed, 31, leaves New York for a job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where she celebrates her Muslim faith on an exciting Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca even as she encounters rabid oppression from the state-sanctioned religious extremist police. She is licensed to operate ICU machines in the emergency ward, but as a woman, she is forbidden to drive, and she must veil every inch of herself. Her witty insider-outsider commentary as a Muslim and feminist, both reverent and highly critical, provides rare insight into the upper-class Saudi scene today, including the roles of women and men in romance, weddings, parenting, divorce, work, and friendship. After 9/11, she is shocked at the widespread anti-Americanism. The details of consumerism, complete with Western brand names, get a bit tiresome, but they are central  to this honest memoir about connections and conflicts, and especially the clamorous clash of “modern and medieval, . . . Cadillac and camel.” --Hazel Rochman

Product Details

  • File Size: 923 KB
  • Print Length: 467 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1402210876
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks; 1 edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003BLY772
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,109 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in Saudi the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly September 17, 2009
As a Saudi female myself and lived my whole life in this country I found it a very detailed book, you could really understand how life is in the Kingdom and Islam, as Dr. Ahamd in my opinion reflects the true meaning of a moderate Muslim. It's beautifully written and I do recommend it for those who want to have a sense of life in Saudi Arabia and Islam.
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100 of 113 people found the following review helpful
This book is a fascinating account of the experiences of a Muslim female physician, educated in the U.K. and America. What is amazing is that Saudi Arabia has been our 'ally' and formidable trading partner, but that 99.9% of have us have no clue as to the ideological and spiritual compass of the people of this country. We just know they are our 'friends' and that our 'friends' spawned a terrorist named Osama Bin Laden (then again, Tim McVeigh used to work at WalMart). This book gives great insight into the value system and machinations of this culture and its religion, and presents some historical perspective on how its modern day presence evolved. The book is not the first but one of the best narratives of the shocking disparity between men and women in Saudi society. Dr. Ahmed described her experiences with colour, insight, and perspective. Yet she refrains from coarse judgment, appropriately so, as the modern Saudi people are proud and principled society. Hopefully our next President (and Vice president) will bring it to the White House Book Club!
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90 of 103 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars working draft of a fine book August 5, 2009
I almost gave up on this book after just a few pages, frustrated by the sub-par writing and editing. Editing is one of those jobs that's invisible when done well. Not here.
But: I'm glad I kept reading. The substance of the book is compelling and important, and the author's perspective is sane and intelligent.
If you adjust your expectations of writing as art, you can enjoy and appreciate this book. I only wish it were dystopian fiction and not 21st century reality.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Visit to Saudi Arabia September 20, 2008
In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
Dr. Ahmed provides an intimate look at life in Saudi Arabia through the eyes of a highly trained female physician. She graciously dealt with the severe restraints upon her personal and professional life there because of her being a woman, and described encouraging views of some significant challenges to them. I was especially touched by her description of the Hajj which had a profound effect on her as it put her in touch with her Muslim roots. Having lived for eight years in Indonesia in the sixties I was particularly impressed with the contrast between these two Muslim countries. During my time in Indonesia women enjoyed a great deal of freedom, and freedom of religion was guaranteed by the constitution.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Cinematic - This would make a great movie! September 8, 2008
I read this over the weekend, based on the Dianne Rheme interview and I couldn't put it down. The language is very descriptive in a very personal and equally unconventional way. There are dozens of images and scenes that I can picture vividly.

This was a real joy!
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Save your money! August 20, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are so many better books on this topic. You don't need to buy this one. First, as many other reviewers have said the language in this book is entirely too flowery. The book would have been way better at half the page length. The book reads as if the author took out an old list of SAT words and was trying to work every single one into the book. The sentences are contrived and overly complicated and add nothing to the actual book.

The other major problem I have with the book is that while the author is an intelligent person, she isn't particularly insightful. The concept of a book on Saudi Arabia from the prospective of a Muslim Westerner has promise but this isn't the right author for this vehicle. For one thing, the author comes off as strangely naive. In the beginning of the book she leaves for Saudi Arabia knowing less about the country that I do, and I'm not Muslim. For someone who is so highly educated and apparently has travelled to other Muslim countries before moving to Saudi Arabia, she seems oddly ignorant. At the same time, she also seems oddly sympathetic. She spends surprisingly little time in the book really talking critically about Saudi society. Instead, she spends whole chapters romanticizing the misogyny and poverty that is rampant in the society. Despite the fact that she is a Westerner and has benefited from the many freedoms that we have, she seems strangely sympathetic to the rampant sexism and racism that exists in Saudi culture. She seems to feel that even though she would likely never had had the chance to be a doctor in Saudi Arabia, she somehow lost out on not having lived the repressed life of a Saudi woman. And even more disturbing, she seems to have no real insight into this clear inner conflict which exists within herself.

Personally, this author should stick to what she is good at, science and medicine, and you should hold onto your money and buy a different "Westerner goes to live in Saudi Arabia" book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By Emily
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased "In the Land of Invisible Women" because I was interested in learning about Saudi Arabia and how women's rights were influenced by Sharia law. In this respect, the book succeeded. I am taken aback by some of the rights that women in Saudi Arabia are denied. For example, women cannot drive, which effectively places their comings and goings in the hand of male relatives. I believe that this book is a good read for the informational value alone. I think that people in the West should read and learn about the harrowing situation in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries so that we can oppose the oppression of women there.

However, I was distracted by all of the flaws in the book and the author's writing style. For one, the book was WAY too long. It could have been more effective at around 200 pages (instead of 400). The author threw in tons of superfluous writing and felt the need to be overly descriptive, so much that it went on for pages and pages. Furthermore, I feel that Qanta is fairly unlikeable throughout the narrative. She is often nosy and overly judgmental of her Saudi friends. She often wavers on her opinions, sometimes deeply condemning the laws in Saudi Arabia, and other times supporting the laws for keeping her safe and railing against Western courtship ideals. The last thing, which others have pointed out, is that she seemed oddly preoccupied with designer fashion and wealth, which did little to add to the narrative.

Overall, I would recommend this book just for sheer information value. I enjoyed, but despite its relatively many flaws, I can give it only 3 stars.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiration!
What a wonderful book of self-exploration and realization of a woman's soul! And I believed I was reading about female Doc's trip. WOW, keep writing, dear author.
Published 1 day ago by Connie L Malec
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't even finish it
I wanted to like this book, but I didn't. The authors writing style left me frustrated. Rather than focus on what was relevant to the story of her journey, she focuses on... Read more
Published 5 days ago by A Reader
1.0 out of 5 stars A female doctor's journey in male dominated Saudi Arabia
This book, which was well written was so depressing and made me so angry that I had to stop reading it. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Linda Boccia
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I ejoyed reading this book. Very insightful.
Published 11 days ago by Michael Scruggs
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very educational and provides good insight.
Published 26 days ago by SAL
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and engaging.
This book taught me more about Islam than I ever imagined I could know. The author weaves this knowledge into her narrative about her experience as a Westernized Muslim woman... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Steve Doyle
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book for high school or curriculum, women's rights,
I could not put this book down. I was captivated by this beautifully written memoir of life as a single female medical physician in Saudi Arabia. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joy Brighton
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it...learnt a lot into this world
Couldn't put it down....learnt a lot about this culture and world. Interesting to read about the impact of 9/11 from a different vantage point too.
Published 1 month ago by Theresa
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening
I was fascinated by her medical journey in Saudi Arabia. Learning about the culture and norms was definitely
eye opening.
Published 1 month ago by Kathleen Zachman
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Very interesting but in my view disturbing book. It makes you think and thankful you don't live in those countries
Published 1 month ago by Kathy Borbas
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More About the Author

Dr. Qanta Ahmed is the author of In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom. She is a board certified sleep disorders specialist at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York. She is Associate Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York (Stony Brook). Dr. Ahmed is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. She practices sleep medicine exclusively in Garden City, Long Island.

Previously, she has practiced in the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, in the National Guard Health Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. Dr. Ahmed holds an Honorary Professorship at the School of Public Health at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. She is the first Muslim woman and the first physician to be selected to be a 2010 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge, England. The fellowship seeks to ignite public discourse on the nexus of matters scientific and religious, a dialogue she brings here to Huffington Post.


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