Girls of Riyadh

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Girls of Riyadh
Girls of Riyadh.jpg
Author Rajaa Alsanea
Country Saudi Arabia
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Fig Tree (an imprint of Penguin Books)
Publication date
5 July 2007
Pages 300

Girls of Riyadh, or Banat al-Riyadh (Arabic: بنات الرياض‎‎), is a novel by Rajaa Alsanea. The book, written in the form of e-mails, recounts the personal lives of four young Saudi girls, Lamees, Michelle (half Saudi, half American), Gamrah, and Sadeem.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel describes the relationship between men and women in Saudi Arabia. Girls of Riyadh tells the story of four college-age high class friends in Saudi Arabia, girls looking for love but stymied by a system that allows them only limited freedoms and has very specific expectations and demands. There's little contact between men and women—especially single teens and adults—but modern technology has changed that a bit (leading to young men trying everything to get women to take down their cellphone numbers). The Internet is also a new medium that can't contain women and their thoughts like the old system could, and the anonymous narrator of the novel takes advantage of that: she presents her stories in the form of e-mails that she sends out weekly to any Saudi address she can find. Sex is described in this novel, and how men ignore women if they give themselves up before marriage.


Originally released in Arabic in 2005, Girls of Riyadh was immediately banned in Saudi Arabia due to controversial and inflammatory content. Black-market copies of the novel circulated and Girls of Riyadh has been a bestseller across much of the Middle East.[1][2] As of January 2008, English copies of Girls of Riyadh are openly available at major bookstores in Saudi Arabia. The book, published by Penguin Books, is available in the English translation, but has some changes due to difficulties of re-creating the effect of using different dialects of Arabic.

The book is widely distributed, being sold in stores from U.S. to Europe.

The English translator, Marilyn Booth, expressed dissatisfaction with the end result of the translation project. According to Booth, the publishing house and author interfered with her initial translation to the detriment of the final text.[3][4][5]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Alsanea, Rajaa. "Review: Girls of Riyadh". Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Adil, Alev (3 August 2007). "Girls of Riyadh, by Rajaa Alsanea, trans. Marilyn Booth". London: The Independent Books. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Owchar, Nick. "Author versus translator", Los Angeles Times, 2007-10-4. Retrieved on 2009-08-16.
  4. ^ Booth, Marilyn. "Letters to the Editor, 'Girls of Riyadh'", The Times Literary Supplement, 2007-09-27. Retrieved on 2009-08-16.
  5. ^ Booth, Marilyn. "Translator v. author: Girls of Riyadh go to New York", Translation Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 2, July 2008. Retrieved on 2009-08-16.

External links[edit]