Margaret von Klemperer
1 minute read
2 Oct 2008

A look inside Saudi culture

Margaret von Klemperer

MARGARET VON KLEMPERER reviews The Veiled Kingdom by Carmen Bin Ladin. Virago.

NOW available here in paperback, though originally published in 2004, this book is by the former sister-in-law of the more infamous Osama Bin Ladin. (According to the book, this spelling is used when referring to individual members of the family, but the more common Bin Laden when the whole clan is written about.)

Carmen Bin Ladin, who grew up in Switzerland with a Swiss father and an Iranian mother, married one of Osama’s numerous brothers in the early seventies. After the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, the family name became one of the most reviled in the Western world, and she decided to write her story of being a member of that family, even though by that stage she had left her husband and was living in Switzerland with her three daughters.

A great deal of the book is taken up with the trials of being married to a man who, particularly when in the West and in the early days of their relationship, was charming and attentive but who, when Carmen failed to produce sons became withdrawn and unpleasant.

They lived for many years in Saudi Arabia, and, in Carmen’s telling, it was an appalling life for a Western-educated and raised woman. She did not understand or like the culture, and with her marriage breaking apart around her, it must have been very difficult, trapped as she was within a repressive family structure.

Of course, we only get one side of the story and no doubt there is another view, opposed to that of the author, but judging by what Carmen Bin Ladin writes, it was a grim life for someone not born to expect it.

Osama hardly features, but as a look inside Saudi culture, it makes for sobering reading.