An evaluation of the progress Saudi Arabia has made in its modernization, with recommendations on how the country can continue to evolve.
In her first book, Saudi journalist Fatany turns an appraising eye to her country’s efforts to modernize in the 21st century. Much of the book addresses advances made in bringing women into more prominent roles in politics, public life and leadership. Fatany writes about both broader trends and individual successes, including women like Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan Al-Saud, who has worked to raise awareness of breast cancer, and successful businesswoman Khadija Koshak. The book doesn’t focus solely on women’s rights and advances, though; Fatany also addresses a range of political, economic and religious reforms that she counts as aspects of the country’s modernization. Saudi king Abdullah has opened participation in the country’s electoral process and has led the way in limiting the influence of religious extremists in determining the country’s direction. Fatany also considers the impact of social media on the country, particularly its youth, and the broader regional influence of the Arab Spring. (The book includes some of the most recent shifts in the region, including the ouster of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi earlier this year.) There are several references to Dubai throughout the book, and the upbeat overview of the political and cultural situations suggests that Saudi Arabia has quite a lot in common with its more secular neighbor, which is perhaps not the impression most Western readers have of the two countries. Fatany also acknowledges the many areas in which Saudi Arabia has not yet modernized, and she leaves readers with an overall picture of a country in transition. While the book is easy to follow and accessible for readers who have no more than a cursory knowledge of the Middle East, it may leave some readers looking for more background information, particularly with regard to Saudi Arabia’s recent history.
An easy-to-follow, if occasionally superficial, guide to modernizing trends in Saudi Arabia and the progress the country still needs to make.