Death in Riyadh

Dark Secrets in Hidden Arabia

Front Cover
Geoff Carter
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£14.99, US$ 23.99, €21.50
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About The Author

Geoff Carter is a much-travelled businessman and freelance journalist who has written extensively a wide variety of articles for newspapers and journals in both Britain and Continental Europe.

About The Book

This is travel literature of the first quality: penetrating in its understanding of the personalities encountered and vivid in the description of scenery and events. It is also a book which is highly topical, for although it was published before the events of September 11th, it goes a long way towards explaining what could possibly give rise to the mentality of the Al’Queeda and the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York.

The suspicion and hidden malice of many of the characters in this book, together with their hatred of the West, and the ever-present threat of the evil eye, and the constant portent of death – especially on a Friday – throughout Saudi Arabia, seems almost to anticipate the horrendous events of September 11th as an episode which was doomed sometime to cast its shadow over the world of the “infidels” and “non-believers.”

It is difficult for Westerners to understand the loathing of the Saudi for all things Western (even though Saudis remain dependent but unthankful for the material benefits of the West) unless the Westerner has actually visited the area, and spoken and socialized with its desert inhabitants. The hatred of the West is to be traced to the intensity of religious belief, and the puritanism of the Wahhabisect which was sent on its conquering course by the Saudi princes from the 18th century onwards.

The author sees the two civilizations, the West and the Arab-Islamic as inevitably incompatible and on a collision course, for in the latter, not only is all social mixing between the sexes forbidden, but also in the workplace, and even in the private home under the laws of Illegal Seclusion. The consequence of this total segregation – in its psychological implications perhaps even more malign than racial segregation – is that two opposing views of the world are created, in terms of living, social communication, and an understanding of the eternal verities of life. In such a strict society, where the rules for life are laid down in the most minute detail with regard to diet, cleanliness, and the five prayer rituals of the day, there can be no room for the value of tolerance which alone has made possible the full development of individualistic Western civilization. This book is therefore essential for understanding the conflicting attitudes between the West and the Islamic East, for it is a helpful starting point for the resolution of underlying cultural problems.

“As the booming rhetoric blared from the black speakers aloft the four minarets of the Grand Mosque, as crowds of men from all directions poured into spacious Diera square, towards the hour of noon, a sense of tension and foreboding filled the air.

This was heightened by the mounting hysteria of the Friday sermon as the deafening metallic voice resounded off the jungle of modern concrete blocks and construction sites surrounding the open space; and by the quickened pace of groups of excited men – many in colourful attire – as they approached the area between the Grand Mosque and the Palace of the Governor of Riyadh…

That which brought the crowds after Friday prayers was anticipated, yet publicly always unannounced. A large semicircle had already begun to form in front of the Governor’s Palace, on the southern side of the square, close by the Clock Tower, kept in order by a dozen or so khaki-clad policemen armed with stenguns and headropes. Several police cars and a hearse-shaped ambulance bearing the Red Crescent were parked nearby – an indication of an imminent occurrence.”

- opening words of one of the best contemporary travel books on Saudi Arabia.