Chai Book Club Giveaway: Saudi Arabia

I have been in Saudi Arabia for half a day and all I know so far is that it is awful to drive in Riyadh, especially without GPS or ability to read Arabic. Getting lost of hours on the roads is one way to see the city.

Oh, and I forget to bring my baby that doesn’t exist because my visa, in Arabic, somehow claimed that I was bringing a baby.

Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey is my pick this week. I confess I have not read it, only heard a radio interview with him at time of publication. Readers, if there is a better option on contemporary Saudi Arabai, let me know.

Please leave a Saudi Arabia-related comment with valid email address by Monday, May 27 at 23:59 EDT. I realize this is a country that provokes strong reactions, please keep comment cogent and civil. Available to US addresses only. One winner will be selected at random. Note that this book is out of print so the winner will receive a second-hand copy.


And the winner is #3, Mark Jackson, who wrote: “ARAMCO compounds are nuts!”

Chai Book Club 26May13

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  • We are planning a trip to SA in 2015. I wonder how hard to get around by wheelchair?! Let me know if you notice curb cuts or none.

  • Did you miss Riyadh’s famous Friday afternoon public hangings?

  • ARAMCO compounds are nuts!

  • Denise L

    I find Saudi Arabia very intesting. Would love to read more on it.

  • SC

    Will hopefully go there one day.

  • Ari K

    Wonder if they’d let me in with a name like Ari? It’s on my bucket list but…

  • Joey

    Are you going to the Four Seasons Riyadh? It’s the building with the hole on top! I always see it in Riyadh skyline photos and always wanted to stay there, even for a night.

  • Jennifer

    I would love to go to Saudi Arabia and look forward to hearing more from you about your trip.

  • Carl

    Saudi Arabia should be on every tourist’s bucket lust. If only they would let us visit. Ah, well.

  • Matt M

    I’d definitely like to go one day. Watch the videos on Youtube of the guys drifting their cars down the road with crowds watching. Funny to see in such a conservative country.

  • Hank W

    I think it would be fascinating to visit Saudi Arabia.

  • Abhinav G.

    One of the places to visit on my list.

  • KSA is the root of the Middle Eastern evil today. With their oil monies, the ruling class is instigating problems throughout the region from Iraq to Morocco and from Syria to Sudan. This is not to mention that OBL and most of the 9/11 thugs were from there …

    @ Ari, I don’t think you will have a problem so long as your passport does not have an Israeli stamp.

  • Michael H.(oldfox)

    Definitely would love to visit there in the future. Reading the book would be eyeopening I imagine. In the meantime, I look forward to more of your comments about Saudi Arabia.

  • Andrew

    Again, this is a country about which I know little. I seem to recall that there was some unrest around the time of the Arab Spring.

    *does quick internet search*

    Ah, okay. There was some unrest in the KSA, but one of the most substantial displays of force by the gov’t was its use of tanks to put down unrest in neighboring Bahrain. Two birds with one stone: help shore-up your neighboring allies, and show that dissenters at home that you’re not messing around.

    If anyone is interested, I came across this recommended reading list on Saudi Arabia from the journal Foreign Affairs:

  • Linda T

    And your wife cannot even help you by doing some of the driving. Bummer…But seriously, sounds like an interesting read.

  • Might be going to Saudi Arabia as part of a trip based out of Bahrain in November….

  • Drew


    Why are Aramco compounds, “nuts”?

    Driving in the kingdom is one of the most dangerous things you can do there.

  • Andrew

    @Drew – why is driving one of the most dangerous things you can do there? Is that a comment on the danger of driving, or the relative safety of the country as a whole?

  • Drew


    I have never felt unsafe anywhere in the country. I have felt unwelcome, but never unsafe.

    Driving is almost impossible to explain unless you’ve been there. I have friends that will drive 200kph without a seatbelt and with their kids hanging out the window, or playing on the rear dash. When you ask about being in an accident the answer is always inshallah. Meaning, if god wants us to die, we will die.

  • @Drew – I second that, I even saw the kid hanging out the window. I will do a separate piece on driving there, suffice to say my wife has ordered that I cancel my reservation for Jeddah and we will be cabbing it.

  • Andrew

    @Drew & RTP: That’s certainly worse than I’ve witnessed (the throngs of vehicles in Saigon & Hanoi), or even heard previously described (a friend telling me a bus driver in Egypt described the lane markers as “suggestions”). Inshallah indeed …

  • @CaroleZoom – the country does have flatness going for itself in terms of accessibility and there are curb cuts, but crosswalks are another matter, the cities are not designed with pedestrians in mind.

  • barry cable

    greetings from tasmania…….google figbat oswald and see if you can work it out.