Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea

(Cross posted from Bookreviews)

Here’s what we’ll do: we’ll take Sex and the City. Replace New York with Riyadh. Take out the American culture and in it’s place, let’s have the culture of the elite classes of Saudi. And the 4 gorgeous ladies? That would be 4 University students from Riyadh – Gamrah, Michelle, Sadeem and Lamees. What do you get now? Right. Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea.

Girls of Riyadh is an inside peek into the lives of these four educated University students and the book unfolds as a series of e-mails sent out to a yahoogroup, chronicling the events from the lives of each girl. We know the writer of the emails has to be one of these four girls, but we do not know who! The story begins with Gamrah’s wedding to a well-do-to Saudi boy, and branches off giving us a brief history of their lives and culture.

Gamrah is the less ambitious of the four. She gets married to a seemingly nice boy, and has this dream of the perfect wedded life, starting with their honeymoon in Italy. Does her dream come true? Is marriage all that it’s cracked up to be, for Gamrah?

The beautiful Sadeem is Gamrah’s best friend, a management student and is soon engaged to be married to a handsome, almost Prince Charming like Waleed. Her courtship starts off like a fairy tale, but will it end in a nightmare? Did she get too carried away in her affections for Waleed?

Michelle is Mashael Al-Abdulrahman’s pet name. She is the least conservative of the four, owing to the fact that her mother was American. She refuses to get pulled into the constricted perspectives and lifestyles of the other girls in the University and tries to be the same she would have been, had she been in America. Would she fall in love with a Saudi boy, who can adjust with her open mindedness? Will it work?

Lamees is a straight-As student and is on her way to becoming a doctor. She’s the tom-boy of the four, smuggling video tapes of movies to school (banned by law). After a particularly bad incident involving her friend’s brother, she retreats into herself. She then meets Nizar, a fellow trainee at a hospital and Cupid strikes. Does Lamees get the fairy tale ending that the other girls so wanted?

Girls of Riyadh would probably fall under the chic-lit genre. And that’s not such a bad thing, no. The prose is effortless and what I enjoyed personally was the little glimpses we get into the culture itself. It’s such a low cost way to travel to Saudi, isn’t it? Personally, once in a while, I end up craving such books when I’m in middle of some heavy reading like Coelho or Kafka. Something to take my mind off, something easy-going and smooth.

Pick up the book if you want a soap opera’ish story, with a couple of twists and turns. If you’re a culture aficionado like me, you’ll enjoy it. Only thing to remember? Chic-lit.


8 thoughts on “Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea « Thought Process --

  2. Hey !

    Thank you for the link in this post as well as on your page! Like I said in Bookreviews@bookrack, I liked the way you’ve written this review 🙂

    Keep writing and sharing



  3. Rajaa,
    Thank you for this glimpse into Saudi culture and life. I read everything I can fiction and non-fiction about Saudi Arabia. I am American and really knew nothing about your culture and have come to appreciate it and understand it a bit. It is so different from the way we live here in the US yet even though things are quite opposite here I can relate to so much of the way things are there. I have long held the belief that the women of your country must speak out and be the ones to bring real change that will effect the whole world. You are a voice for your generation and others of your religion and culture and obviously people have listened to you. The very best of luck and if your are ever in Los Angeles I would love to meet you for tea to discuss our ideas together.
    Thank you,


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