Princess by Jean Sasson

As the author, and a supporter of women worldwide, I am very pleased to see this well-thought out review.

Patrisya M.

Nothing makes me happier than buying books for low prices. There are only a few places where you can purchase cheap books in Dubai. One of my favourite places is House of Prose, a second-hand bookstore, where I bought Princess…a book that you can see in every bookstore around the city.

Through Jean Sasson, Sultana, a member of Saudi Arabian royal family, tells about shocking life behind the vail. She speaks about her own life and experiences of other Saudi women… stories of women glittering with jewels, living in luxury palaces with tens of servants. However, unbelievable wealth is just a cover for lack of freedom and total submission to men.  Women are prisoners of their fathers and brothers, and then of their husbands. Women do not have a right to express their opinions, to work, or to leave the country without ‘master’s permission.

 Without a doubt, the book is heart-…

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Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening

Excited to have this book ordered — I so admire the many Saudi women who are working to achieve equality…

Saudiwoman's Weblog


I just read Manal Al Sharif’s book Daring to Drive. I knew that it was in the works for a few years and I had expectations and so did many other Saudis. We discussed and speculated what she’ll mention. In my conversations with her, Manal dropped some hints about what she’s writing about. However, the actual book is nothing like I anticipated. I expected that it would be a more general narrative on what it’s like for Saudi women; a more geographically parochial version of Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens. I thought it might focus more on what happened in 2011 and its aftermath. In actuality, the book is a shockingly intimate close-up examination of Manal herself. With childlike sincerity, Manal tells what it’s like growing up poor in Makkah and her volatile childhood home environment. She even recounts her botched circumcision and how the governmental school system…

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Princess by Jean Sasson: Book Review

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Princess by Jean Sasson- Book Review by Arsh

One of my favorite books so far, Princess is based on a true story of a Saudi Princess who is considered worthless for being a woman beside having all the wealth of the world. It is about the life of Princess Sultana Al Sa’ud who belongs to the royal house of Saudi Arabia. Being a woman is a shame for Saudi Royals and they keep it a secret when they’re born or bury them alive or if not, they are worthlessly caged. These women are considered slaves of their male masters, the youngest ones get married to the old men and are brutally murdered for smallest allegations.

This book is totally heart-wrenching and you’d want to finish it in one go. It took be 4 days to finish it since I had no time, work and all but still every time I opened the book to read it, I didn’t…

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Such good things going on in the Islamic world for women

Just wanted to leave a brief message which I will add to later on.  Finally, Arab women are taking their place in society.  They are working, becoming involved with government and at the same time, remaining devoted wives and mothers.  Things are changing my friends and I, for one, am so very happy with most of the governments in the area because they are working hard to bring their women into public life, and those women are a great asset for their countries.  Please check back in later for more details!

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Prominent Saudis: Dr. Ghazi Al Qosaibi

I was fortunate to meet this fine man (my husband and I were invited to his home when he was Minister of Health) and there was a crisis at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. Dr. Ghazi was in a feud with my former boss, Dr. Nizar Feteih and he wanted to ask me some questions about Dr. Feteih. (I had been interviewed by the committee investigating Dr. Feteih.) Although Dr. Feteih could be very much a dictator at the hospital, he loved the hospital and did everything he could to make it the best hospital in the kingdom. Also, I had worked as Dr. Feteih’s right hand in the Medical Affairs Department for a couple of years and felt loyal as he had never been anything but extremely nice to me and my husband, Peter Sasson. I never saw Dr. Feteih do anything illegal or bad against the hospital, although he was a man accustomed to getting his way and at times was too harsh with some of the employees. Despite the fact I was unable/unwilling to turn against Dr. Feteih, Dr. Ghazi was very gracious. I briefly met his German wife, and two sons and a beautiful daughter. I found it interesting that the sons looked German as their mother and the daughter was a dark-haired/dark eyed beauty who looked completely Saudi. I did warn Dr. Ghazi that Dr. Feteih had been exceptionally close to King Khalid during the years I was working at the hospital (King Khalid died in 1982, as we all know) and that Dr. Feteih was also close to King Fahd. Dr. Ghazi brushed aside my concern that he (Dr. Ghazi) would end up losing any feud with Dr. Feteih. In fact. Dr. Ghazi was fired as Health Minister very soon after Peter and I met with him in his home, although a poem Dr. Ghazi had written that indicated the poem was for the eyes of King Fahd, played a role in his firing. Dr. Feteih was later released from his duties at the hospital, so the entire episode was very dramatic and both men paid a huge price for their feud. So much was happening during that time but I’ll save further details for my memoir. However, I will say that I found Dr. Ghazi to be a very intelligent and kindly man, and was very sad to hear of his passing so young a few years ago. I’m going to go now and find the poetry book he presented to me on that night and reread it. He was a very talented poet…(as all Saudi Arabians know.)

Saudiwoman's Weblog


The most prominent of prominent not royal Saudis is Ghazi Al Qosaibi. This is a name that every Saudi knows, young and old. He initially became popular for the reforms he implemented as minister of health, that and his Arabic novels compounded to make him one of the shiniest stars in the Saudi sky.
The first phases of his education were in neighboring Arab countries, Bahrain and Egypt. He then went on to a masters in the US and a PhD from the University of London. He then came back to Riyadh in 1971 to work as an academic at King Saud University. However, that did not last that long because he later sat at many important desks in Saudi; Director General of Saudi Railways Organization, Minister of Industry and Electricity, Minister of Health, Saudi ambassador in Bahrain then UK, Minister of Water, and now Minister of Labour.

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CELEBRATE for two deserving people have won the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

NICE TO REPORT GOOD NEWS:  Those on the front lines fighting for girls and women tend to agree that nothing is more important than education.  Education changes boys as well as girls.  Without education, few things will change for the youth of the world.

And so it was with great joy that I celebrated when learning that two very deserving people had won the Nobel Peace Prize.  Too many times it appears that politics enter the equation, but this year two people who are changing the world shared the prize.

Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who spoke out for education for girls, and who was gunned down by the Taliban for her words, is respected by all who acknowledge the importance of education to create change in the lives of girls and women all over the world.  Young Malala is one of the strongest and most determined young woman the world has seen.  And then there is Kailash Satyarthi, the Indian child rights campaigner, another deserving recipient of the prize, who has been recognized.  This is a man who has saved thousands of young lives.  He is widely respected for his accomplishments.

Both are to be admired and supported.

After traveling the world, and living in Saudi Arabia for 12 years, I agree that nothing is more important in empowering girls and women than education.  While reading about Malala, and the difference education has made in her life, I am reminded of the many conversations I have had with Princess Sultana Al-Saud, a Saudi princess who has fought for girls and women since she was a young girl.  She has always told me that education is the key to changing lives, cultures, countries, and the entire world.  She is so right.

The world has come to know Princess Sultana through the pages of books I have written about her struggles and her victories.  You can read about Princess Sultana and her quest for freedom for girls and women in the four books written about her life.  Additionally, Malala Yousafzai, has written a bestselling book about her life, and I recommend it highly to all who care about peace, gender equality, and all that is good about life.

READ THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE FROM THE BBC, as well as other links following to other news agencies about this grand event:

Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child rights campaigner, have jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize.

At the age of just 17, Malala is the youngest ever recipient of the prize.

The teenager was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in October 2012 for campaigning for girls’ education. She now lives in Birmingham in the UK.

Malala said she was “honoured” to receive the award, saying it made her feel “more powerful and courageous”.

She revealed she found out the news after being called out of her chemistry class at her school in Birmingham.

“I’m really happy to be sharing this award with a person from India,” she said at a news conference, before joking that she couldn’t pronounce Mr Satyarthi’s surname.

The Nobel committee praised the pair’s “struggle against the suppression of children and young people”.

Mr Satyarthi has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, “focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the committee said at the Nobel Institute in Oslo.

The 60-year-old founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save the Childhood Movement, which campaigns for child rights and an end to human trafficking.

Reacting to the news, Mr Satyarthi told the BBC: “It’s a great honour for all the Indians, it’s an honour for all those children who have been still living in slavery despite of all the advancement in technology, market and economy.

“And I dedicate this award to all those children in the world.”




BOOKS ABOUT PRINCESS SULTANA Al-SAUD of Saudi Arabia, a Saudi activist for girls and women and education for all

BOOKS ABOUT PRINCESS SULTANA Al-SAUD of Saudi Arabia, a Saudi activist for girls and women and education for all

USA EDITION of my latest book about Saudi women

USA EDITION of my latest book about Saudi women

UK edition of the latest about Saudi women through the voice of Princess Sultana

UK edition of the latest about Saudi women through the voice of Princess Sultana

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Exclusive interview with International Bestselling author Jean Sasson HEADSHOT 3 for BOOK COVER 2014

From writing Princess More Tears to Cry I can tell you that Saudi women are changing their world and that Princess Sultana is bringing their victories public.  Women are driving openly and taking their chances with the mean-spirited clerics, who like nothing better than to harass women.  But the big surprise is that the women of Saudi Arabia have a friend who is sitting on a throne, and the person on the throne is the very forceful king of Saudi Arabia.  Thus far, he has freed all the women who were imprisoned for driving and sentenced to floggings by the religious courts.  This is big news in their world and it is making women bolder than ever.  But all is not perfect because there are many powerful men in Saudi Arabia and some of these men do everything in their power to keep women in purdah.  So, even as we celebrate the happy stories, there are sad tales that will bring tears into the eyes of all but the most hardened.

This is the long awaited follow up to Life of Saudi Princess Sultana, so what you can tell us about this book?  

I can tell you that Princess Sultana used to be the lone voice of women pushing for freedom, but now we learn that other women are gathering their courage and pushing back.  There are many new heroines to celebrate in Saudi Arabia, and you will learn about 10 of those women in this book.  Additionally, the many millions of readers who have fallen in love with Princess Sultana and her family will enjoy the heart-warming stories that centre around her three children, her three grandchildren, as well as other members of her family.  So there is something for everyone in this, the 4th book in the series about Princess Sultana.

Please tell us about the process of gathering all the personal stories for this book.  

This research and interviewing process was so very different from the past three books about the princess.  Close your eyes and try to imagine a palace filled with women and children who all want to tell a writer something interesting that is happening in their country, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet, one of the most backward when it comes to the treatment of girls and women.   It was in such a setting where I was told about the stories Princess Sultana wanted included in Princess, More Tears to Cry.  Some of the stories came from the princess’ daughters, while others came from the princess.  Honestly, it was a very noisy environment for a writer.  I needed a quiet time to process facts, but that was not to be.  Finally I found the secret to shutting out all the noise to hear only the person sitting in front of me.  I focused my eyes on that person’s face and soon I could only hear that one important voice.  But I will admit that I missed the old days when everything was so secretive and the princess and I were slipping around like spies from the cold war to get the information clear for me so that I could return to my home office, and carefully write books from the facts I had been given.  While it is more fun now that the secret is out in her own family, it is quite the challenge for this writer!

This is your twelfth book so how much easier is your writing process with each new book you publish? 

Each book I have written carries its own struggle.  Therefore book number twelve was no easier or no more difficult than the previous eleven.

Please can you tell us about when you first met Princess Sultana.  

I met the princess for the first time in 1985 at the Italian Embassy in Saudi Arabia.  She was the only female royal I had ever seen at a western function so that fact alone caught my attention.

Everything of life was exciting then, because I was living in one of the most exotic kingdoms in the world.  I had met other royal princesses when attending royal weddings, but nearly all the Saudi women I had come to know appeared quite shallow, with their interests centering only on designer gowns, expensive jewels and the latest royal gossip.  To meet Sultana was quite the surprise, for she had important things on her mind.  Almost instantly she began talking about the undesirable social issues affecting her country that had been plaguing my own mind for the past seven years since I first arrived in the kingdom.  She talked.  I listened.  Our eyes locked and something told me she would be an important person in my future.  She told me later that she felt the same.  She invited me to visit her in her palace.  Our friendship grew slowly, but within a year I was going with her on holidays to France where we truly bonded, mainly because we are both so passionate about the horrible ills affecting so many women of the world.

Why was it important to you to share personal stories of middle Eastern women for your career?

They became my subjects; I became their hope.  I was living in the Middle East during a very important time for women in the region.  And, don’t forget, in the early days most Saudis were open minded about westerners and wanted to get to know us.  Therefore, I had access to many women, while most journalists had none.  After all, in those days, most journalists were men, and no man would ever allowed in the circle of women.  I believed, and still believe, that it is important for the world to know about the stories of women from the Middle East.  In fact, I would have told these stories even if there was no indication they would be bestsellers.

What have been the most surprising things you have found when writing your books? 

The commonality of the rich and the poor — all women, east and west, press against an invisible force trying to deny them freedom and subject them to the rules of men.



What is next for you? 

I have five books on the drawing board.  And so I will continue to write books that awaken others, so that I can pass the passion to create change to a new generation.  To my mind, nothing is more important, because unless I am a walking miracle, I won’t live forever, and this is a struggle that is far from won.




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CAPTURING THE QUIET MOMENTS… examples of good writing

This is a very nice blog. I recommend it.


figures of speechI’ve come across three figures of speech that I like very much and thought I would share because of their gentle, soft quality. It’s easy to be dramatic. It’s much harder to capture the smaller moments
The first is from the poet Ezra Pound (who I admit isn’t a personal favourite, but I do like this).

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

The idea of something NOT happening is arresting, isn’t it? What else might not happen…a hand no longer raised in anger but the fear remains, the light of recognition gone from an elderly relative’s eyes, a key no longer turning in the front door at 7 O’Clock…any of these could be the start of/or part of a poem or a story or a passage of writing that might…

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1)  Mommy loves our food!

She tastes everything before she feeds it to us.  She makes funny  faces, but she samples it all, canned dog food, canned cat food, bird seed, and the human food she shares with us.  She must love our food better than her own!

Talking about good food!  I am Paris:  I was a stray before I found mommy.  But here I am browsing through my 14 dishes filled with the most tasty kitty and human food.  Mommy even buys me shrimps and delicious chicken dishes!  When she notices that I love something particular, she makes note and keeps me well supplied.  I’m told by other kitties that I won the cat lottery when I found Mommy.

I  Jean's photos 025

2)  Mommy is a fun playmate. 

She spends two or three hours of each day playing, or talking a walk.  She loves us very much and can’t bear it if we are unhappy.

My name is Champagne.  I was miserably stuffed in a small cage in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and would have soon died if not for a very kind man who knew mommy paid a lot of money to buy my freedom.  Mommy made sure from that time on I was never in a cage again.  In this picture we have just put up the Christmas decorations.  I’ve been playing with a favorite red ribbon that is now hidden underneath my body.  I’m pretending as though I don’t have a care in the world because I want to keep this ribbon as my own.  But I don’t think Mommy would mind.


My name is Yager and Mommy tells me all the time that I am the most majestic German Shepherd in the whole wide world.  Mommy scratches my tummy every day, and I’ve noticed if I get in the hammock that she quickly comes and gives me a good tummy rub.  Ah!  Life is sweet!


3)  Mommy always takes us on holiday.

She says she must because if we are left behind,  she worries that we would be sad and frightened.  She would never put us in a boarding place.  Sometimes she has left us with friends who stay at our home and take good care of us, but those friends love us too.

Our names are Booger (Black Scotty) and Newcombe (White West Highland Terrier).  We went on vacation to the beach with Mommy.  She sits with us on the white sand until we are ready to return to the hotel to take a nap.  She even buys us cool sunglasses.


And here we are, Smokey and Bandit, brother and sister, packing to go on holiday with Mommy.


4)  We are allowed to wear costumes for special occasions.

BUT, if we say no thanks, then Mommy tosses those costumes away!  So you see, Mommy allows us to make decisions.

Here I am again, Champagne, wearing my special Santa hat.  My second mommy is holding me in her arms.  This is Mommy Lydia, who loved me just as much as my own mommy and always took really good care of me.


5)  Mommy saves a lot of strays.

We are constantly being introduced to new pups or kittens or birds.  But that’s all right.  The more the merrier!

Here are three kittens who lived with us until they had their own homes and their own mommies. They are really cute and sweet!



6)  Mommy buys us our own transportation.

Here we are in Sarasota, Florida riding around in our buggies.  Mommy thought that the sidewalk was too hot for our little paws.  And, guess what?  She was right!  We are riding in style!


I’m Chloe, and I’m in my own little shoe bed.  Mommy bought it for me.


7)  We have a great life.  We play and eat and are so loved that when we sleep, we REALLY sleep.  No insomnia in our lives!  Check us out in what they call DEEP SLEEP MODE!  It’s been fun to tell you about our Mommy.  We all hope that every animal in the world could be loved just as we are loved.  We don’t have to worry about a thing!

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PRINCESS SULTANA, MORE TEARS TO CRY, an excerpt for readers!





Like a siren song, diamonds call  out  to  most  females.  I no longer  hear  that  call. I lost my desire for expensive  jewelry

the moment I discovered the immense joy one derives from helping others.  Now  when I am shown exquisite  jewels, I do not envisage the glittering gems draped  around my neck, hanging from my ears or clasped upon  my wrist;  instead,  I contemplate what  the value of  those  gems could  procure.   Perhaps  it  would  allow  an  eager child to take  lessons in a good  school,  or a sickly mother  to feel the glow of calm, knowing  she will live to return  to her children after receiving high-priced  medical care.

I was walking into a situation where I would have such an opportunity, as lively voices animating the corridor led me to believe  that  members  of  my  family  were  already  enjoying  the pleasure  of  an  exciting  reunion.   But  I  was  wrong.   Expensive jewelry was the cause of much of the commotion.

As I entered the largest of our sitting rooms,  I heard the distinct voices of three of my older sisters. Dismay washed  over me when I looked  to see my sisters, Tahani,  Dunia  and Haifa,  clustered  in a circle breathlessly  exclaiming over Dunia’s new looped diamond necklace, which was hanging nearly to her waist.

Sara  had  described  the  piece  of  jewelry  to  me  a  few  days earlier,  but I was startled  when I saw that  the long-stringed neck- lace could be wrapped round  Dunia’s neck three times. Many hundreds of diamonds had been used to make such a substantial piece. It was much larger than I could ever have imagined.  I stood staring  and  assessing  that  necklace.  Each diamond was  worth  a small fortune.  Each diamond could educate a child. Each diamond could  support a poor  family  for  a year.  The  blinding  glitter  of Dunia’s diamonds held no appeal for me.

Sara  had  mentioned   that  our  sister  had  paid  many  millions of  dollars   for  the  necklace.  As  a  woman   who  only  cares  for the  frivolous  things  in  life, Dunia  had  devoted  many  hours  to searching for the most extraordinary jewels and seeking to acquire them all.

We  did  not  understand the  seriousness  of  Dunia’s  obsession until Sara purchased a special coffee-table  book,  My Love  Affair with Jewelry, as a gift for her. It featured  the jewelry collection of  the  legendary  American  actress  Elizabeth  Taylor.   From  her youth,  Sara  has  always  tried  to  encourage  our  family  to  read books,  even picture  books  with  few words.  She believed that  the ‘guided tour’ by Elizabeth Taylor  would bring Dunia  many hours of pleasure.  Actually,  the book  brought on a bizarre  illness that created a crisis.

Dunia   became  hysterical,   a  woman   without clear  thoughts, crying out that  she must have the Krupp  diamond, a 33.19-carat stone  that   had  been  a  gift  from  Taylor’s  husband,  the  actor Richard  Burton.  Dunia  wept for hours  over a second diamond, a 69.42-carat stone Burton had also purchased his wife.

Dunia’s  physician  was summoned. After prescribing  sedatives, he ordered  a month  of total bed rest, with curtains  drawn, so that his patient  would not think of the world outside her palace and all the jewels that  might be had. He called in Dunia’s daughters, telling them that there was to be no discussion of jewels.

To  our  everlasting  amazement, the  doctor  diagnosed  Dunia’s illness as the first known case of ‘the Elizabeth Taylor Jewellery Virus’! While Dunia was recovering, one of her daughters sensibly slipped the jewellery book  away;  in fact, she burnt  it so that  her mother  would  not  be tempted  to  once  more  suffer  envy to  the point of infirmity.

Hopefully   Dunia   had   recovered   from   her  Elizabeth   Taylor angst now, and she appeared very content  with her diamond rope necklace. I overheard her say in a clear voice that was meant to be heard,  ‘Do not tell, but this necklace is more costly than the most fabulous  pieces Uncle Fahd purchased for Jawhara.’

By Uncle Fahd,  Dunia  was  speaking  of King Fahd,  who  was a  half-brother of  our  father  and  a  favoured  uncle  we  had  all loved very much. His death  on the first day of August 2005  was a dreadful  blow  to  my immediate  family,  for  that  was  the  day that  the hub  of Saudi power  moved  to another unit of our  large family.

Our  grandfather, King Abdul Aziz, had many wives from vari- ous Saudi tribes and those wives gave him many, many sons – and even more  daughters. While all the  sons  could  be considered  in line for the throne,  only 12 of my grandfather’s sons were serious contenders for the crown.

Jawhara was our Uncle Fahd’s favorite  wife and is the mother of his most  beloved  son,  the  youngest,  Abdul  Aziz bin Fahd.  In our world,  the eldest son is the most important in the eyes of the father  and  of the  community;  but  the  youngest  son  is generally the most loved. Both positions, first and last, establish a certain favoritism.

Princess  Jawhara is a  unique  woman.   Even  after  our  much- loved  uncle  passed  from  the  earth,  Jawhara kept  the  respect  of our  family.  She was part  of the entourage that  accompanied her husband’s  half-brother and successor, King Abdullah,  on trips out of the country.  Such a thing rarely happens  in Saudi Arabia.  Once a husband passes from this life, the women  generally retreat  into the background, never to be seen or heard  from again, other than within the tight confines of their immediate  family.

I have always suspected  that  several of my sisters were jealous of  Jawhara’s  beauty  and  of  her  favoured  status.  But  I always liked her, for a number  of reasons,  mainly because she came out in  public  to  speak  about  education for  girls  long before  other women  were  brave  enough  to  speak  out.  During  those  days, even the wife of a king generally remained  invisible to the public. But  Jawhara used  her  intelligence  to  better  our  land,  making a good  name  for  herself  and  for  our  country.  And,  despite  her powerful   position,   I  always  found  her  to  be  a  kindly  person who did not hold herself higher than all those around her. The Kingdom  of Saudi  Arabia  needs  many  such  women  to  take  us into the future.

Most  likely Dunia  was one of the sisters most jealous because, as the favoured  wife of King Fahd, Jawhara had accumulated enormous wealth.  She probably owned  more jewels than  most of the royal women combined.

I gazed at my sister, a beautiful  woman  who had wealth,  health and the love of her family, yet none of these attributes quenched her  thirst  to  acquire  more  of  everything,  particularly jewelry. Dunia  is ten years older  than  me, yet has not  learned  during  all her years of living that  expensive baubles  do not bring happiness. She has no comprehension of this important truth.  I feel sad for my sister, for I fear she will never know true happiness.

At this point, Dunia proudly  confided, ‘My sisters, I also participated  in the necklace design. The designer claimed that  my input made this necklace most unique.’

Just  then  my attention shifted  from  Dunia  because  I saw  my brother Ali appear  in the doorway. Walking  slowly,  he leered at one of our maids, a very pretty Indonesian girl named Sabeen, meaning  one who  follows.  Sabeen,  who  was  new to  our  house- hold,  was an innocent  girl, happy  to be making  a nice salary  to send  home  to  her  parents  to  pay  for  the  education for  her  two younger  brothers. I reminded  myself to warn  Sabeen to stay far from  Ali’s reach.  The dear  girl was a lovely addition to our  staff and  I meant  to  protect   her  from  all  lecherous  men.  This  vow included  men  in my own  family,  as my brother and  two  of his sons  were  well  known   for  their  desire  to  bed  every  attractive woman  who came into their orbit.  I glanced at Sabeen and smiled encouragingly. She was carefully  balancing  a serving tray  loaded with glasses of cold pineapple,  apple and cranberry juice.   

I sighed deeply and scowled at my brother, who was so preoccupied observing pretty Sabeen that he failed to notice my displeasure.   I  continued to  stare  for  other  reasons.   I  had  not seen Ali in more  than  a year and was surprised  to see large bags drooping under  his  eyes and  hanging  jaw  jowls  swaying  as  he walked.   Even  his  paunchy   stomach   jiggled  with  each  step  he made. He was a wiggling sight!

My brother is a self-indulgent  man  and,  as such,  he has aged more poorly than most. Since he was a teenage boy, Ali has made no effort to restrain  his appetite  for many vices, including  exces- sive eating and smoking. Amani, who is close with one of his daughters, had recently reported that Ali had even begun to drink alcohol to excess.

As one who once told falsehoods and slipped unnoticed to drink prohibited alcohol,  I know  too well that  such noxious  liquids are bad for the human  body,  as well as for our human  psychological well-being. I am pleased to say that I have not taken a drop of the forbidden liquid in more than seven years, although I admit it was very hard to break the addictive pattern of turning  to alcohol each time I was stressed  or depressed  by the antics  of my children,  or angry at my husband.

Suddenly  I heard  my name  and  there  was ‘Little Sultana’  running in my direction. Ah, joy! My first grandchild  – my only granddaughter and namesake  – is a celebrated  beauty.  Her raven black hair reaches to her waist, her olive skin is flawless, and most unique to her appearance are her eyes, as black as midnight.  Allah has blessed her with a rare and beautiful  look.

While  physical  beauty   is  a  great  gift  given  to  one  without any effort on their part,  it means little in comparison with the character of  a  person.   I  am  most  gratified  because  our  Little Sultana   came  to  this  earth   predetermined  by  God  to  possess an elevated intelligence, a sunny disposition, a good soul and a generous  spirit, one that  instantly  recognises those less privileged. Even though  she was  only  seven years  old  at  the  time,  she was mindful  to  extend  kindness  and  generosity  to  others.  Since the very young  age of six years, she frequently  emptied  her room  of her  favorite  toys,  games,  clothes  and  books  so that  her  father could  distribute the  treasured items  to  the  children’s  wards  at local hospitals, or to the poor in the small villages.

I have never forgotten the time I discovered this charitable trait. I was visiting my son Abdullah’s home when I witnessed Little Sultana’s  uncommon generosity.   I  had  been  in  Europe  visiting Maha   and  on  my  return   to  Saudi  Arabia  had  passed  through London to shop at one of my favourite places, the huge department store Harrods. While there, I had selected some luxurious designer clothes for various members of my family, in particular for my grandchildren. At the same time, I had purchased some lovely trinkets  for  Little  Sultana’s  long  hair.  Harrods carries  a number of designer  lines of the  most  unusual  bows,  ribbons  and  shiny metallic barrettes for a girl or woman  to glamourise  their tresses. Of course, I also chose some special games and toys.

I was excited  to deliver the goodies  to my son’s two  children, Little  Sultana  and  her  younger  brother Faisal,  who  was  a mere babe,  not yet even old enough  to walk. Faisal was napping  when I arrived,  so I settled  back to enjoy watching  Little Sultana  open her gifts.

At  first  my  granddaughter was  thrilled,  carefully  scrutinising her  dresses,  miniature handbags, hair  accessories,  shoes,  games and toys. But then she became suspiciously quiet. Her small brow wrinkled and her full lips pursed, as though she was thinking of something  much  too  serious  for  such  a  young  child.  My  heart broke  when she sat at my feet, clasped my knees and said in her baby  voice, ‘Jadda  [meaning  grandmother], I have far too  many beautiful  things for a child.’

‘What?’ I exclaimed,  giving a questioning look to my daughter- in-law Zain,  the mother  of Little Sultana.

‘Jadda,  I heard  about  poor  people  from  a teacher  at school.  I learned  that  there  are  people  living in our  country  who  do  not have nice clothes, or books or toys. I want to share your gifts with a little girl who has nothing.’

For one of the few times in my life, I was at a loss for words. To  my  mind,  Little  Sultana  was  too  young  to  have  such ideas and   thoughts.  Everyone   knows   that   children   are  most   often self-centred because they are children.  I wanted  all three of my grandchildren to enjoy being children  without a care or a worry. Not  knowing  what  to say, I waved my arms in the air and gave a questioning look to Abdullah’s wife: ‘Zain? What is this?’

Zain,  who is always conversational, was also at a loss. ‘This is new, for sure – something  very odd to me.’

I  returned  my  concentration  to  my  granddaughter,   saying, “Darling, you are a little sweetie to wish to share. It is a good thing to do, for charity  is one of the most important things expected  of Muslims.  So I agree that  you should  share.  But why don’t we go to  your  room  and  select some  of your  older  dresses  and  toys?’ I paused  for  a long  moment.  ‘Then you  can  enjoy  the  beautiful things your Jadda brought you from London.’

Little Sultana thoughtfully stared at me with a hint of disappointment. ‘Jadda,  do  you  mean  that  I should  keep the  most beautiful things for myself and give away the old things to others?’

‘Yes. That  is what  I mean, my little doll,’ I said a bit too enthusiastically, for I longed to see Little Sultana  wearing the clothing I had purchased.

My  precious  granddaughter looked  at  me for  a long  moment then wisely replied, her words spoken very slowly, ‘Jadda, if I give something  that  I do not  want,  is that  not  the same as not  giving at all?’

Stunned into shamed  speechlessness, I nodded.  I stood  to begin gathering   all  the  treasures   I  had  purchased for  Little  Sultana, bagging  them  into  the  largest  of the  gift bags  and  placing  them in a corner  of the room.  ‘Yes, darling,  you are right,’ I said. ‘We will speak with your father to make certain to find some little girls who have nothing.  Soon they will have many beautiful  things.’

I left knowing  that  from  that  time  I would  need  to  purchase two of everything  in the hope that  Little Sultana  would  be happy giving a set away and keeping a set for herself.

Later, when I discussed Little Sultana’s reaction  with my son Abdullah,  he was not too surprised,  telling me, ‘Mother,  this tiny girl is teaching us all.’ He smiled with pride. My son loves his daughter to the point of madness, at least measured  against many Saudi fathers who are still firmly fastened to  the  vision  of a son  rather  than  a daughter. He  has  loved  his daughter with a pure love since the moment  she came to us.

My adult  son is all that  I ever dreamt  he might  become.  He is intelligent,  kind and generous.  Most  importantly, my son believes with great certainty  that  females are as worthy  as males. This is a rarity in my culture.

Sadly,  others  do  not  feel as  Abdullah  does,  for  example  the reactions  of Little Sultana’s maternal relatives – the parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins of Zain.  Even my son, who is a powerful  prince,  can  do  little with  those  who  praise  the  birth and existence of his son Faisal, while ignoring his little daughter. Thankfully, Zain  walks hand-in-hand with her husband and she, too,  is disappointed by the behaviour of her family. But in Saudi Arabia one must tread carefully; and besides, Zain’s is a sweet and loving personality that avoids confrontation.

And so it has come to pass that  despite the fact that  my grand-daughter was born a wealthy princess, her life is not picture-perfect. Although  to her father,  mother  and her paternal grandparents she is the moon and the stars, she must cope with the problem  of being born a girl in this land, a child without true value.

But Little Sultana  is meeting  these prejudices  with  the wisdom of one  much  older  than  her  years.  Although  she is as strong  as her grandmother Sultana,  she meets her adversaries  with calm wisdom  rather  than  following  my method  of reacting  to  gender sexism with hostility and aggression.

As a woman  who has fought  for her entire life to bring awareness to  those  who  scorn  and  belittle  females,  such  reactions  to my precious  granddaughter have not  only saddened  me but  also created  much  disappointment and  anger  in me.  Over  the  years I have learned that one cannot  force someone to adopt  another person’s  beliefs and  values, however.  Perhaps  my granddaughter will succeed where  I have failed,  as she has  a softer  personality than  her  grandmother. In my past,  I fear  I was  too  aggressive, which often turned  people away. 

A good moment  had now come for Little Sultana, in attendance at the family party,  crying out in joy as though  we have not seen each other  for months,  when  in fact I had  spent  hours  with  her the day before.

‘Jadda!  Jadda!’  Little  Sultana  cried as she reached,  beckoning me to lean forward so that  she might  kiss my face and  offer her cute little cheeks for me to kiss.

As I nuzzled  my face in her perfumed  locks, Ali strode  to my side, nudging me while saying, ‘Praise Allah, this little beauty will make some man a first-rate  wife.’

I  twirled  around like  an  angry  tiger  to  my  coarse  brother, who  was  already  thinking  of my granddaughter as a wife slave to some man,  perhaps  to one of his unruly  grandsons, who  was bound  to grow into a man such as Ali. I hissed in his ear so that Little Sultana  could not  overhear:  ‘Your tongue  curls in ugliness, uttering  revolting words,  my brother. This girl will serve no man.’ Ali, as usual, grimaced in astonishment at my stinging reply, for my brother had lived his entire life without adjusting  his philoso- phies to advancing  ideas.  He has no clue about  his ignorance  of humanity. On the day Allah takes him from this earth,  I fear that he will leave convinced that all women are born only to serve men in the bedroom and in the galley.

At that  moment  Little  Sultana  ran  away  to  greet  Maha, who was  walking  into  the  room  with  the  confidence  and  stunning power  of  a  woman   who  knows  she  controls  her  own  destiny. Everyone  turned  to  look  at  my  dramatic daughter, who  grows more physically exquisite with each passing year.

I silently prayed  to Allah to allow Maha  to leave her hostilities against our land and its traditions at rest until the evening was at an end.

My brother had noticed Maha’s entrance  as well. Ali had never enjoyed a good relationship with either of my daughters, possibly because Maha  and Amani had a warmer,  more lenient upbringing than  his daughters. My daughters know  they are loved, and that their feelings and opinions are valued by us, their parents; Ali’s daughters live in fear of their father.

Ali has enjoyed the troubles  I have endured  at the hands  of my daughters. ‘Ah, Sultana,’  he  retorted with  a  satisfied  smirk,  as he glared  at Maha, ‘my memory  failed me until  now.  Maha  has returned, so I assume misfortune is visiting your palace. I forgive your temper,  my little sister.’

My temper was surely rising, for I could feel my entire body flushing  with  heat.  My  tongue  was  about  to  deliver  a  spiteful rebuke  when our sister Sara walked to our side, defusing the situation.  ‘Ali, brother, we have your favorite  Arabic dishes specially prepared just  as you  like them.’  Sara  looked  around the  room.  ‘Tell us, where is Sita?’

Sita was my brother’s  latest wife, the eighth woman  he had wed since he first married  as a young man.  Ali, like my father,  is only allowed  four  wives at a time,  according  to Islam.  But both  men have a habit  of divorcing  wives who  displease  them  so that  they might marry young women.

Sita  is  a  stunning   beauty  from  a  poor  Sunni  Syrian  family. Salman,  one  of Ali’s youngest  sons,  had  met  Sita’s brother at  a cafe  in  Damascus   while  on  holiday  in  the  area.  Sita’s  brother had  mentioned   that   his  older  sister  was  so  beautiful   that   his parents  were saving her for someone  with  enough  gold to match her  weight.  When  such  a  man  came  along,  they  would  agree to  the  golden  dowry.  Salman,  who  had  reached  the  age  when young  men yearn  to marry,  took  an interest  in one that  must  be more  physically  magnificent  than  a movie  star.  He  asked  to  see a photograph. A picture was finally produced and Salman was instantly  smitten.  The young woman  was lovely enough to trigger a young man’s dreams.  He left Syria with the photo  in his pocket, returning to Saudi Arabia,  where he told the story to his father.

Ali was  interested,  but  for  the  wrong  reason.  Once  my  conniving  brother saw  the  glamor  and  beauty  of the  intended,  he asked her age. Learning that she was three years older than his son Salman,  my brother found  his excuse.  He  insisted  that  the  girl was too mature  for a boy aged only 21. Ali adamantly refused Salman’s request  for a dowry  of gold, although the amount was no more than what my brother spent on trifles every month.

 Despite  his  son’s  pleas,  a  week  later  the  unfeeling  Ali  sent his  representative to  meet  with  the  family  to  arrange   his  own marriage  with Sita. Without negotiating, Ali paid the dowry requested,  which  was Sita’s weight  in gold coins.  Her  price was costly, because  Sita is a tall girl, and,  although not  fat, neither  is she skinny.

Sara had told me: ‘Oh Sultana,  Ali’s son left his father’s palace in a rare  rage and  is refusing  to return  to the kingdom. He may never speak to his father again, and who can blame him?’

Unsurprisingly, Ali had  laughed  off the  matter,  according  to Sara.  ‘My  brother is soulless,’  I had  replied  angrily.  For  sure, most  men want  to please their  sons and  make  them  happy,  but Ali would  always  put  himself before  anyone  else, even his own child.

In the beginning,  I was prepared to feel sorry  for Sita, for my heart  aches for any woman  married  to my brother. But from  my observations she was so happy  to have married  into  wealth  that she appeared not to notice that her husband was portly  and more than  30 years her senior; he is even older in looks than  his years. In fact,  during  a party  for  one  of my nieces, Sita had  pointedly told us all, ‘My family is still rejoicing,  for their fortune  is made. Ali insisted  that  they keep my dowry  gold and  they have built  a nice home and are sending my younger siblings to one of the best schools. My good husband has hired three of my brothers and so now  they can afford  a marriage  dowry,  too.  All are planning  to wed within the year.’

I could  not  imagine  Ali showing  Sita any  tender  feelings,  although  Sara said that she had noticed Ali was very attentive  to his newest bride. I supposed  that Ali’s feelings for Sita were expressed because of the activity in their bedroom, but even Sita did not appear displeased,  so I saved my sympathy  for others  – those  who were truly suffering.

At this point,  I heard  a swell of noise and  looked  towards the entrance,  where  my ageing  father  was  making  his way  into  the room.  He was upright,  but barely.  Two of his man-servants were holding his arms, one on each side, while a third stood behind him in case he stumbled  backwards. My father  is nearing  the end of his life and, despite our volatile history,  my feelings have softened over  the  years,  as every daughter yearns  for  affection  from  her father.

As he shuffled into the room,  he was surrounded by nearly everyone at the party.  Looking at his frail form, and remembering the strong and powerful  male he once was, tears came to my eyes. Lately, I had  endeavored to think  of the good  things  about  my father.  I had tried to be charitable towards him and now believed that  there was much to be thankful for. My father  was the reason many good people were living on this earth.

Like  Ali,  my  father   was  an  expert   at  divorcing   his  least favorite  wife in order  to make  room  for a new one,  and  so it came to pass that  my father  had married  twelve women  over the course of his long life. Nine of those women  provided  him with children,   twenty-seven   daughters  and  twenty   sons,  of  whom forty-five  are  still with  the  living. His  daughters and  sons gave life to many grandchildren, and now those grandchildren are producing great-grandchildren. It is a good thing that our family has  accumulated  great  wealth,  for  there  are  many  mouths   to feed, many brains to educate and many bodies requiring  clothing and shelter.

Although  he was never a loving father  to his daughters, he was a man who provided  well for his family and that counts for something,  I suppose.  His  sons  and  grandsons love him  with  a great intensity, for he has never shown anything  but affection to anyone born male.

Several  years   back,   my  children   had   given  their   father   a dazzling  throne   chair  covered  with  imitation jewels  as  a  joke. Very touchingly,  they said they knew  he would  never be king of Saudi Arabia  but  he was a king in their  eyes. That  throne  has a golden-covered seat, and shimmering  stones line the back and the chair legs. It’s quite a magnificent  throne  and has created  a lot of exhilarating talk with our guests, as many believe that  the jewels and the gold are real, when in fact that is not true.

My father  had never seen the throne,  but now his eyes lit with delight as he spotted  the alluring  chair. He motioned to Abdullah that he wanted  to sit upon it.

All the children  smiled and clapped  as my father  took  the seat of honor. There  he sat,  looking  upon  the sea of faces and  be- stowing  smiles upon  them  all, like a benevolent  ruler.  He  even gave a wide smile to his daughters, granddaughters and great- granddaughters.

I felt  happy,  glad  that  my  father  was  having  a  rare  moment of old-age  joy. I had  heard  from  Sara that  he was very bitter  in his heart at becoming old and infirm, and was usually in a most cantankerous mood.

Then  I noticed  Abdullah  and  Amani  leaving the room,  before quickly  returning with  their  two  sons,  to  present  them  to  their great-grandfather,  who  had  never  seen  either   child.  Abdullah cradled  his son Faisal, while little Khalid  was cushioned  happily in Amani’s arms.  I stood  in watchful  silence as my father  smiled with  gladness  while nodding  his approval of my two  grandsons. All was well with the world  until an excited Little Sultana  rushed to be by her father’s side. My heart  plunged in fear that my father would insult my granddaughter, just as he had slighted me when I was a child.

But Little Sultana  did not  know  to be wary  of my father.  She looked  thoughtfully at  my father  and  at  the  throne  he was occupying, then, to everyone’s delight, she gave a deep and perfect curtsy.

My father savored the moment,  smiling with pleasure at Abdullah’s  daughter. I suppose  for this instant  my father  believed he was a real king. He brushed  his hand over Little Sultana’s head and  face,  and  said  something  complimentary. An expression  of pure joy came to Sultana’s little face and that joy was mirrored on Abdullah’s face. My relatives began to applaud and cheer, for they had seen something  none of us would  ever have dreamt  possible. My father had given his undivided  attention and open admiration to a female child.

Just then  Kareem  stepped  to my side and  encircled  my waist with his  arm,  giving  me  a  gentle  squeeze  with  his  hand.  My husband and  I looked  deeply  into  each  other’s  eyes, knowing that each of us was as happy as we could be. There are occasions in life when everything feels perfect, and this was one of those moments.


THE PRINCESS HOPES THAT READERS OF THIS CHAPTER WILL CARRY ON and read the entire book. the rest of the story.


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