3.5 out of 5: In the Land of Invisible Women is the personal account of a British Muslim doctor who moves to Saudi Arabia for a year to work in a hospital. Dr. Ahmed's story reveals the often shocking details about living in Saudi Arabia, a place generally closed to Western scrutiny. As a woman, Dr. Ahmed is subject to Saudi Arabia's strict requirement of full veiling for all women in public. Other morality laws, including restrictions on her freedom to travel without an appropriate male escort, further truncate the freedoms she's used to exercising in the West. Dr. Ahmed finds herself in a male-dominated workplace and must learn to live and work within this foreign, and often repugnant, social structure. Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is the full account of Dr. Ahmed's Hajj (a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and the K'abba), which she describes in meticulous detail.
Dr. Ahmed's heavy-handed and overblown writing style is this book's significant flaw. A couple examples:
The silence after the engine stopped engulfed us. Only the ticking of the slowly contracting metal under the hood punctuated the vapors of grief emanating from the house.And:
His alabaster skin was a blank canvas to blend with all cultures. His clear eyes (the bluest I had seen in Riyadh) concealed a safe of secrets to which I wanted the combination.Fortunately, Dr. Ahmed's story is interesting and engaging enough to overcome the awkward language in which it's told.