“The tearoom scene which met my eye looked like a page out of a book whose figures came to life as we approached, for the women were wearing the old-fashioned clothes of Arabia, pantaloons and long overdresses with high collars fastened by gold studs on a chain, and no makeup on their faces except for a lining of kohl on their dark eyes.
“For someone who had not even known where Saudi Arabia was a few years back I was assuredly now in a unique position. No one of my kind had entered this country before as a member of one of its families. I belonged.”
It was 1945, and Marianne Alireza, who had spent almost her entire life in California, had moved to Saudi Arabia with her new husband, Ali. Suddenly she was a member of an Arabian family, veiled and cloaked like a biblical figure, thousands of miles and two centuries from home.
For twelve years Marianne Alireza lived in a harem, a female group composed of her mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and various servants. Men outside the family could not penetrate the harem, and women could never join the men socially or be seen in public without veils. Here, in a world both luxurious and humble, she raised her children and grew to love her new homeland.
This unique look at Saudi life in the years before the petrodollars was hailed by the Washington Post as “an authentic and remarkable human tale.” For this edition the author has added a new introduction reflecting on her life and the changes in Saudi Arabia since this book’s first appearance twenty three years ago.
Marianne Alireza now makes her home in Pasadena, California, and travels extensively.