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Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis Hardcover – May 19, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An Arabic-speaking Westerner who seized a rare opportunity to travel freely throughout Saudi Arabia, Bradley offers a dense, abstract study that reads more like the "culture and history" section of a guidebook than a juicy, insider account. But Bradley did get access to high-profile Saudis, most memorably to Osama bin Laden's nephew, with whom Bradley went on a picnic. An accomplished journalist and scholar who prefers facts to sensory-let alone salacious-details, Bradley successfully compiles research, information, geographical data and flat-footed descriptions of observed events to explain the political dynamics and historical roots of a strong authoritarian state, characterized particularly by the close relation between the Al-Saud ruling family and the conservative Wahhabis. He conveys a sense of a country fraught with fear, hostility and suspicion while remaining aloof from much of the drama he describes. Bradley is at his best when he writes about the press, providing what is truly an insider's look and untangling some of the knotted ties between the media, the Saudi government and the United States.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Bradley arrived in Saudi Arabia to work as a journalist from 2001 to 2003 for the -English-language Arab News just as a ban on internal travel by Western journalists was lifted. Recounting visits to Saudi Arabia's regions, Bradley underscores the quasi-imperial composition of the regime: rule by the centrally situated al-Saud clan, and acquiescence to varying degrees by the tribal south, the Shiite east, and the historically commercial Hijaz along the Red Sea. The al-Saud alliance with the Wahhabi clergy completes Bradley's picture frame of the regime, although the picture itself is provided in details from the day-to-day lives of ordinary Saudis whom the author meets. The image posits the modern alongside the medieval, and the attractively hospitable against the repellently barbaric, though Bradley remains curious and engaged throughout. The geopolitics of oil is beyond the author's scope, but for readers interested in the social forces at work in the country, including terrorism, Bradley provides perceptive access to current trends. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Fourth Edition edition (June 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403964335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403964335
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,966,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOHN R. BRADLEY ( was born in England and was educated at University College London, Dartmouth College in the United States, and Exeter College, Oxford.

He is the author of four non-fiction books on the contemporary Arab world published by Palgrave Macmillan that draw heavily on his personal experience: Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005); Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution (2008; updated edition 2012); Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East (2010); and After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts (2012).

Bradley has been covering the Middle East for almost two decades. He has written essays, dispatches, reviews, and op-eds for numerous publications, including: The Washington Quarterly, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, Salon, The London Telegraph, The Forward, The London Evening Standard, The New York Post, The London Sunday Times, Foreign Affairs, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Jewish Chronicle, The Washington Times, Newsweek, Asia Times, Prospect, and The Economist.

He has been interviewed about the Middle East by CNN, the BBC, PBS, NPR, CBS, Fox News, Al-Jazeera English, Sky News, Russia Today, Channel 4 News, Bloomberg TV, and many other media outlets.

Bradley's public lectures have most recently taken place at The Pacific Council for International Affairs in Los Angeles, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, London's Intelligence Squared, and The Athenaeum in Claremont, California.

Fluent in Arabic and Spanish, Bradley now divides his time between North Africa and Latin America.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Linda Carlyle on June 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this from amazon after I saw Bradley on Fox & Friends on Sunday 12 June. He was the most articulate speaker on Saudi Arabia I have seen on the networks. Crucially, he lived there for 2.5 years and speaks Arabic. He is also unusual in that his book combines very literary prose (he has edited and published critically acclaimed books on the great Anglo-American author Henry James) with political journalism and travel narrative. The result, Saudi Arabia Exposed, is far from the usual boring academic book you have to struggle through to get useful information. If you are a layperson who wants to know what makes the Saudis tick, what makes them seem to be our allies and our enemies at the same time, this is the book to buy.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on May 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is according to most reports the best book on Saudi Arabia that has yet been written. It does not content itself with looking at the royal family, but attempts to take a look at the Saudi people in all their complexity. Surprisingly what Bradley finds is not the stereotypical picture had in the West of a wholly submissive and subservient people who are pleased to be ruled by the House of Saud. In fact what Bradley finds is a people eager for a degree of freedom and autonomy, one which is oppressed by the royal family 's corruption .

In an interview on FrontPage Com. in which he spoke about the book and the situation in Saudi Arabia Bradley said that what is needed now is a real effort to help democratic elements in Saudi Arabia come to the fore. He criticized the Bush Administration for caring only for oil supplies and short- term convenience, thus appeasing the Saudi ruling house, and not really being true to the Democratization of the Middle East program it itself has espoused.

As Bradley a veteran Arabic speaking journalist who traveled throughout the kingdom in his research on this book, sees it the Saudi people suffer from a regime corrupt as the former Soviet one, a regime in which privilege and power are held by one huge clan suppressing millions of people.

This work thus provides both a very detailed picture of the way people actually live in Saudi Arabia, and political prescriptions as to how to alleviate the situation of a disenfranchised and tyrannized majority.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By J D Baldwin on July 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book by veteran Middle East journalist John R Bradley is worth the money for just the chapter on the Asir region and the ideological/regional/religious background of the Saudi hijackers on 9/11. Also excellent are the insights into the bizzare Bin Laden-Bush-Al-Saud entanglement, the hypocrisy and duplicity inside the state-controled media, and the exploration of how Saudi Arabia is an empire in the same way the Soviet Union was -- inhabited by people who are historically not Wahhabis and in fact remain (in the author's view) in many ways resistant to Wahhabism. Bradley doesn't appear to recognize the fact, but with its clear distinction between the tyrannical regime and the oppressed people, there is a strong message in theis book about how the Saudis might be natural allies of the West if it chose to overthrow the Al-Saud regime... Very highly recommended!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Novick Jnr on August 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after reading this review by the ever-reliable William Grimes in The New York Times, although it contains some errors uncharacteristic of his usually top-notch writing. For instance, he says Asir is in the southeast, whereas it is obvious once you start reading the book that it is in the southwest. But other than that it gives a good overview of what this fascinating book tries to achieve (at least judging on the first half of it, which is all I have so far read).


August 17, 2005

A Glimpse of Forces Confronting Saudi Rule


Western reporting on Saudi Arabia has been in attack mode ever since Sept. 11. Not since the Borgias has a ruling family received such bad press as the House of Saud, and the United States-Saudi connection is probably the one that Americans would most like to sever, if it could be done without raising gasoline prices.

In "Saudi Arabia Exposed," John R. Bradley, a British journalist who spent two and a half years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Saudi Arabia, will not make Americans feel any better about the Saudi royals, whom he calls "perhaps the most corrupt family the world has ever known." But he does provide a highly informed, temperate and understanding account of a country that, he maintains, is an enigma to other Arabs, and even to the Saudis themselves.

The book's accusatory tabloid title does not reflect its tone. "Inside Saudi Arabia" might have been better. Mr. Bradley, although based in Jedda, traveled far and wide throughout the country in an effort to map the regional tensions and cultural distinctions that make Saudi Arabia much more diverse and complicated than the smooth propaganda of its government would allow.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Roger Peterson (USA) on May 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I agree with the first reviewer: Who needs another hatchet job on Saudi Arabia when we already have Baer, Gold, Aburish et al, none of whom have ever been to Saudi Arabia? They're useful in their own way, but there's no substitute for an Arabic-speaking journalist who has spent years inside the place.

I've never been to Saudi Arabia, either, but it's always in the news, and when king Fahd dies it will be all over the news 24/7. So I thought I'd read this with the hope that I could better understand what's going on there.

It didn't disappoint. In fact, when I'd finished it I couldn't believe it covered such a broad canvas -- from slums to royalty, from cities to the outer regions. There's a trip to Asir, where most of the hijackers came from, and where the author encounters "flower men" in the mountains. And a really fascinating trip to the northern frontier province of al-Jouf where there is a low-level rebellion taking place against the Al-Sudairy branch of the ruling family. He links all of this to a recurring theme of loyalty bought and loyalty earned: how because the loyalty the Al-Saud have from their subjects is "bought" it can never be relied on, and they will turn away from their princely masters as soon as the time is right...

SAUDI ARABIA EXPOSED is written so beautifully and unpretentiously that you just keep turning the pages, mesmerised by a cinema-like series of stark images...

John R. Bradley doesn't say it in exactly these terms, but his argument seems to be: everyone who says the Al-Saud are the buffer between the West and the extremists have got it wrong. It is the Al-Saud who USE the extemists to oppress the Saudi people, who historically are not Wahhabis and mostly hate the royal family.
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