The Uncertain Future of a Powerful Oil State.
352 p. Uitgeverij Balans, Amsterdam.
Modern Saudi-Arabia is a mystery, only known to most people by key words like filthy rich, Mecca, Islam, oil, desert and, recently, murderous. Ever since crown prince Muhammad bin Salman started his ambitious and controversial modernization program, things started shifting in Saudi Arabia. How will a once secluded desert culture react to the challenges of the twenty-first century?
Historian and journalist Mark Blaisse travelled extensively through the country to find answers to this question. He spent the night with princes in a desert camp, inspected the road to Mecca, picked dates, visited a soccer match and art galleries filled with forbidden work and marveled at the adequate flirting in shopping malls. He discovered a paradoxical and amazingly open Saudi Arabia, a world the average media seem to miss.
In this fascinating account of a country in turmoil he unveils the tensions between traditionally conservative values and an open society with women driving cars, mixed class rooms, theaters and fun parks. Even tourists are welcome again. Or is it a fata morgana after all?
Mark Blaisse has worked extensively in the Arab world during the past forty years. His biography of Anwar Sadat (1981) opened doors in Egypt, Libya, Iran and Israel with several books as a result. His latest work is on the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico.