Secrets Behind the Veil: Memoirs of an Expatriate Woman in Saudi Arabia


Since the first coalition war with Iraq in 1990, the Middle East, specifically the largely inaccessible country of Saudi Arabia, has been the focus of intense media exposure and public interest. As an expatriate western woman working as director of nursing for a major hospital in Riyadh from 1995 through 2001, Ludmilla captures the reality of surviving as a woman in Saudi Arabia, where women’s rights are not a high priority or even a consideration You may have heard about the plight of women in this Kingdom, but now you can experience the reality through the words of someone who lived it day to day.

Secrets Behind the Veil takes an uncompromising look at the realities of life in a strictly Islamic society, delving into every aspect of daily life while managing the restrictions imposed by Saudi society. From women spending time in jail for riding in the front seat of a taxi or the constant risk of getting blown up by a car bomb, life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia involves a great deal of culture shock for westerners, in particular western women.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the major oil producing countries in the world. The King and his brothers, along with a large number of extended family members, rule the country in such a manner that allows the average person a relatively affluent lifestyle.

By most definitions Saudi is a “man’s country” where women are not allowed to drive a vehicle or ride a bicycle, must wear a full length black body covering, a scarf and full or partial veil covering the face. Men and women are discouraged from socializing together in any way unless they are related to each other. Most homes have two separate living rooms for this purpose.
We hear generalized, global information about the Saudi culture, religion and traditions, while at the same time not internalizing the actual impact this has on the women who live there and the misfortunes born upon them through this ultra-restrictive culture. Should the Western World care about their plight or any forms of mental or physical torture they must endure?

Many expatriates (people living in the kingdom for the purposes of work, but not Saudi citizens themselves) of different nationalities and religions were required to live and work together in a Kingdom where the belief in only Islam was accepted. The Religious Enlightenment Officers (Mutawa) were intolerant of and persecuted any person who was not following the laws, rules and customs of the Kingdom.

Secrets Behind the Veil takes not a glance, but rather an uncompromising and persistent gaze behind the veil, exposing beauty, hypocrisy, misogynistic behavior, and vast cultural differences present for those who chose to live and work in Saudi Arabia.