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Princess: True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia Paperback – 1 Aug 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (Transworld Publishers a division of the Random House Group); New edition edition (1 Aug. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553405705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553405705
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 783,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jean Sasson grew up in a tiny town of only 800 people in American's deep south. From the time she learned to read, she was a voracious reader. By the beginning of her teens had read every book in the school library. At fourteen she started her book collection when she bought her first book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer--an unusual choice for a young girl from the Deep South. She not only wanted a good read, she wanted a book that would take a long time to read, to expand her reading pleasure. Therefore she searched the bookshop to find the book with the most pages.

At school Mrs. Sam Jackson, her beloved literature teacher, soon noticed Jean's preoccupation and took it upon herself to make weekly trips to a nearby college library to exchange a selection of books to satisfy Jean's reading needs.

And today? When not absorbed in writing or the business of being a celebrated author, she reads and reads, maybe a book a day--literary success has enabled her to buy many books; no longer selected by the number of pages.

Her literary tastes are widely varied, and she has a long list of favorites. Heading that list is Sir Winston Churchill, the prolific writer and leader of Britain in the dark years of World War II. Other historic figures, like Napoleon Bonaparte and T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), satisfy her two literary loves, history and travel.

The works of Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark and Sir Richard Burton opened her mind's eye to the fascinations and mysteries of the Middle East . . . and those first musings led to her writing success.

No longer content to simply read about this magical part of the world, Jean, armed with hospital administrative skills in addition to her literary thirst, sought and found the ideal opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge--knowledge of that closed and mysterious land, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In 1978 she was selected to work at the most prestigious royal hospital in the Middle East, The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in the Saudi capital Riyadh. There her talents blossomed. She became the Administrative Coordinator of Medical Affairs and personal assistant to the hospital medical and executive director, Dr. Nizar Feteih. Through him she was introduced to various Saudi royals, including King Khalid and his Crown Prince Fah'd, who succeeded as King on Khalid's death in 1982.

In 1983, a close friendship between Jean and another royal, Princess Sultana, was forged and years later, based on that friendship, Jean was able to write her widely acclaimed Princess Trilogy. Jean and the princess recently collaborated on a fourth book, Princess, More Tears to Cry, telling the world of the vast gender changes now occurring in the desert kingdom.

Jean worked for four years at the King Faisal Hospital and during that time met the man she was to marry, Peter Sasson, an international man who came from an unusual background. Peter Sasson was a British citizen born in Egypt to a British/Italian father and Yugoslav mother.

Jean lived in Saudi Arabia for twelve years. During those years she devoted herself to activities that would form the bedrock of her career as a writer when she returned to America. She met and made friends with Arab women from the Middle East before leaving Riyadh in April 1991. (At this time Jean and Peter divorced, although they remained close friends.)

After living and traveling in the Middle East for so many years, she felt a special affection for the people of the region. She traveled to Bahrain, The Emirates, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and other countries in the area. She visited war-torn Lebanon and Kuwait, before and after the first Gulf War. After Saddam Hussein's army invaded the country of Kuwait, Jean became concerned with the fate of the innocent Kuwaitis who were victims of the invaders. Her concern drove her to contact the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States, Sheik Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, requesting his advice on traveling to areas housing Kuwaiti refugees.

Armed with a letter of introduction from the Kuwaiti Ambassador, Jean flew Europe and the Middle East to conduct interviews with Kuwaitis. While in Riyadh, Kuwait's Minister of Information invited her to fly to Taif, Saudi Arabia, where the Kuwaiti royals had formed a government in exile in that Saudi mountain village. There she interviewed the Emir and the Crown Prince of Kuwait, among other high ranking Kuwaiti officials, rare interviews that were given to few other journalists or writers.

After leaving Saudi Arabia, Jean traveled to Cairo, Egypt and then to London, meeting many dozens of Kuwaiti citizens living in exile. Jean used the invaluable material she gathered about Kuwaitis on the day of the Iraqi invasion, to write her bestselling book, The Rape of Kuwait.

The book sold over a million copies in one month, proving to the world that ordinary people truly cared about the small country and its people. (The Kuwaiti government provided the soldiers waiting to free Kuwait with copies of the books. Jean Sasson was glad that those soldiers could read what had happened in the little country, and to know why they (the soldiers) were there.) It is important to note that Jean Sasson was the first and only author to write about the innocent Kuwaitis who were caught in the cruel grip of the Iraqi invasion.

Her devotion to the cause of freedom for Kuwait won her an invitation to return to Kuwait on the Kuwaiti government sponsored "FREEDOM FLIGHT." Staying a month in the ravaged country, she joined joyful Kuwaitis celebrating their hard-won freedom, even as she mourned with the Kuwaitis who had lost loved ones. Never forgetting what she had seen, over the years she continued her writings and concern about the missing Kuwaitis lost to the Iraqi prison system, despite the many efforts made by Kuwaiti royals as well as ordinary Kuwaiti citizens to gain their freedom.

Her devotion to the people of the Middle East continued, taking her to unusual stories. In 1998 she requested an invitation from Saddam Hussein to visit Iraq. Although she was the author of the book that had greatly displeased Saddam (The Rape of Kuwait) she received a personal invite from the Iraqi dictator. Traveling to Iraq alone and without protection, she saw for herself the privations being suffered by those most vulnerable: the women and children; deprivations at the hands of Saddam Hussein. While in Iraq, she was assigned a woman from one of the leading families of Iraq as her translator, Mayada Al-Askari. Her bestselling book, Mayada, Daughter of Iraq was a result of that trip.

Living in Atlanta, Georgia, Jean wrote book after book. One of the most successful was the Princess Trilogy, a series of books about her friend, Princess Sultana al-Sa'ud, which was named as one of the most important books written in the past eight-hundred years by a woman. The books have sold millions of copies worldwide.

Jean's books have won a number of awards. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, an organization in Dubai which promotes and recognizes cross-cultural understanding, chose Jean's critically acclaimed book Ester's Child as a book that best promotes world peace.

Jean is the author of Love in a Torn Land, the true story of a Kurdish/Arab woman who joined her freedom fighting Kurdish husband in the mountains of Northern Iraq. After being gassed and temporarily blinded, the Kurdish heroine made her way out of Iraq into Iran. After Jean was contacted by Omar Bin Laden, the 4th born and well-loved son of his father, she wrote the story of Omar and his mother and their life with Osama Bin Laden, titled: Growing up Bin Laden, a critically acclaimed book. She later wrote For the Love of a Son, the true story of an Afghan woman who lost her young child to an abusive husband, and spent many long years searching for her son.

Jean returned to the topic of the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait with Yasmeena's Choice: A True Story of war, rape, courage and survival, telling the painful story of a Lebanese visitor to Kuwait who was trapped in the country after the invasion. The woman was kidnapped and held in a special prison housing innocent women to be brutally raped.

Jean wrote and published a small tome, American Chick in Saudi Arabia, telling a few stories about her first two years in Saudi Arabia, in regard to the Saudi women she met. Jean plans on finishing this memoir soon.

Jean recently finished her 4th book on Princess Sultana, titled Princess: More Tears to Cry, soon to be published.

The list of Jean's best-selling published books:

The Rape of Kuwait (1991)
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia (1992, updated in 2013)
Daughters of Arabia (This book is titled Princess Sultana's Daughters in the USA.)
Desert Royal (This book is titled Princess Sultana's Circle in the USA.)
Ester's Child (2001) (To be re-released 2015.)
Mayada, Daughter of Iraq (2003)
Love in a Torn Land: Joanna of Kurdistan (2007)
Growing Up bin Laden: Osama's wife and son take us inside their secret world (2009)
For the Love of a Son: an Afghan woman's quest for her stolen child (2010)
American Chick in Saudi Arabia (A sample of her memoir not yet completed.)
Yasmeena's Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage & Survival (2013)

Princess: More Tears to Cry (Release date: August 28, 2014)

With a solid background of first-hand experience and years of travel, research and writing, Jean Sasson has made many appearances on national and international television programs as well as having been featured in many international newspaper and magazine articles. She has a huge following of readers from countries all over the world, which is confirmed by the number of her readers and her enormous social media internet following.

Jean is also working on two other important projects, one a secret project, and the other which will be the completion of her memoir of spending so many years living and visiting in the Middle East. Her long-awaited memoir will reveal her many personal and compelling adventures in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.


Jean's work has been featured in People, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New York Post, The Sunday London Times, The Guardian, CNN, FOX, NBC, and many other news organizations.

Here's a personal note from Author Jean Sasson:

First of all I would like to thank all of you who care about the books I write. So many of you take the time to write me a note and for that I am forever grateful. Your care about the women (and men) I write about means more to me than you will ever know.

So many people ask me: why do you care so much about the plight of women of the world? The answer is simple: because I can't help it.

I grew up in the United States, in a small southern town. In my daily experience, women enjoyed full freedom to do as they pleased. During those early years, it was beyond my imagining that women might be discriminated against.

But from a young age, I noticed mankind's occasional unthinking mistreatment of other animals. Such cruelty broke my heart, and I took aggressive action to aid animals in need. Mischievous boys who thought it amusing to tie a bag of rocks to a cat's tail soon learned to avoid me. I cared for a number of animals of my own, including some rather eccentric ones, such as a pet chicken named Prissy that I taught to walk on a lead. Another pet chicken, named Ducky, accompanied me like my little shadow and brought me endless joy. I had a number of cats and, when I grew older, I got my first doggie, a black cocker spaniel named, yes, Blackie! Others - Frisky, Doby, and a Peke named Goo Boo - soon followed.

As I grew older, it seemed that all the homeless dogs and cats in my little town "knew" to gather in our yard, sensing that I could not turn a single one away.

An impulse to save needy animals carried on throughout my entire life, and I was willing to pursue eccentric efforts to save a chained or otherwise mistreated animal. After I moved to Saudi Arabia, our villa in a Saudi neighborhood quickly filled with abandoned dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and even ducks!

Friends who stayed overnight in our home were often confronted with the challenge of sharing their bed with a couple of affectionate cats, of being roused in the morning by songs from caged birds, or of arranging their evening ablutions alongside a surprise in the guest bathroom: a bathtub filled with ducks!

Some people say that my heightened sensitivity is a blessing, while others stamp it a curse. I endorse the "blessing" tag and exult that I've been the joyful "mother" of 31 cats and dogs, the "foster mom" of many others until I could find an appropriate home, as well as the caretaker of too many birds to count. A few years ago a friend from the days of Saudi laughingly confided that my nickname was "The Bird Woman of Riyadh," a title unknown to me during my 12 years of living in the desert kingdom.

In Saudi Arabia, I worked as the Administrative Coordinator of Medical Affairs at The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. Most hospital reports crossed my desk prior to being presented to my boss who was the head of the hospital. Therefore, I was privy to the details of many human tragedies. But the reports that haunted me most were the stories of women who had been brutally mistreated. And, more often than not, it seems, their injuries had been inflicted by the very men who were supposed to protect them. Many Saudi men, of course, were wholly kind to the females in their family. But there were large numbers of men who felt it their right to lash out at a wife or daughter with cruelty or brutality, the women of the family had nowhere to turn for help. The man's word was absolute law and no outside organization would dare interfere. A woman's helplessness in such a situation is heartrending and nearly unsolvable.

I saw sadness almost every day that I worked at the hospital, most of it associated with women's issues. Unfortunately, there was little I could do - for I, too, was a disenfranchised woman, in a country not my own.

But I met several Saudi women who desperately plotted for change. One was a Saudi princess, a woman the world now knows as Princess Sultana Al-Saud. Understanding her culture well, she described that nothing would crack Saudi men's determination to maintain the status quo...nothing, that is, short of worldwide indignation. For this reason, the princess was fierce in her belief that the story of Saudi women must be told. Most importantly, she wanted her own life experiences to be the story that inflamed the world.

For years we discussed this possibility, but after my book The Rape of Kuwait lent me the clout of a bestseller, we knew the time was right to expose the tragedies that afflict so many women on this earth. By then, we were both mature women who understood that discrimination against women is not limited to Saudi Arabia or to the Middle East, but is a worldwide problem, aggrieving women in Western nations, too. But first we would tell HER story.

Storytelling is powerful. A powerful book or movie can inform and inflame. That is why I think it is wonderful that so many books are now being written about the plight of women worldwide. I support all authors who make this important subject their life's work.

I am proud that PRINCESS was the first book to be written about the life of a Saudi Arabian woman, because Saudi life for females is completely unique and cannot compare with any other Middle Eastern country, or for that matter, any country in the world.

After PRINCESS, I shared other, very powerful stories. After traveling to Iraq in July 1998, I wrote about Mayada Al-Askari in MAYADA, DAUGHTER OF IRAQ. Later I shared the story of Joanna's great adventure, the story of a Kurdish woman's escape from Northern Iraq in the book LOVE IN A TORN LAND. Soon came the compelling story of Osama's wife and son, called: GROWING UP BIN LADEN. My latest account is FOR THE LOVE OF A SON: ONE AFGHAN WOMAN'S QUEST FOR HER STOLEN CHILD, a story that will make you weep and make you laugh. I told a few of my own stories in AMERICAN CHICK IN SAUDI ARABIA. In YASMEENA'S CHOICE, I write about one of the bravest women I've ever met, a Lebanese woman caught up in Gulf War I.

I hope that my books contribute to your learning and understanding about women of the world, and that you, too, work to ensure that every human being - male or female - has the right to lead a life of dignity.

Jean Sasson

For additional information about Jean Sasson and her books, please visit, and on many of these sites, you can write to the author as she enjoys hearing from readers.




Product Description


"Unforgettable in content, fascinating in detail - a book to move you to tears" (Fay Weldon, Mail on Sunday (Pick of the Year))

"Anyone with the slightest interest in human rights will find this book heart-wrenching... It had to come from a native woman to be believable" (Betty Mahmoody, bestselling author of Not Without My Daughter)

"Startling, frank and vivid" (Sunday Express)

"Gripping... fast-paced, enthralling" (Publishers Weekly)

"Princess is a mind-boggling look at the everyday life of a contemporary woman in the 21,000-member-strong royal family... absolutely riveting" (People magazine) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Reissue of the worldwide bestseller by popular demand - a shocking true story of life behind the veil. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By ME on 29 Sept. 2002
Format: Paperback
I only read this book as it kept appearing on my Recommendations list. I had a vague idea on how woman were seen in Saudi Arabia but, how little I knew.
Princess Sultana tells the story of her life - her luxurious prison sentence, just because she is a woman in a land where this means second class citizen. No rights, no choice, she is constantly told what will happen to her and her sisters.
She is a Princess yet no one, not even her father, thinks she is anything special - because she is a daughter and only sons are truly wanted. Her voice is defiant and strong, even in the face of danger. She refuses to accept her lot in life - to serve and obey - all the time knowing she could easily be murdered for being a 'difficult' woman. She risks death again and again to do what she thinks is right, to gain a little freedom and choice over her life. Her spirit is amazing - she has hope in the darkest times. It's astounding that this story is real and that she risked so much over and over - knowing that she too could be murdered like her friends and the police would help cover it up.
Some of her stories are truly sickening, I cannot see how she kept going, knowing she had no help in society - no police force, little parental support, should anything happen to her. Women are taught to get on with life no matter what. Men are always right and can do anything, ANYTHING they want.
The only glimmers of humour and lightness are her accounts on the triumphs over her vile brother Ali. I was delighted when she got away with some of them, though tiny moments of satisfaction and joy can never compensate her largely grim existence.
I wouldn't say this book was enjoyable or pleasant. It's shocking, heart wrenching and disgustingly real.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Mukhtar on 8 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
Wether is true or a fiction it is still extremely intresting from the begining to the end. It was hard to put down and i managed to read it within 3 days. Its was interesting and gripping alltogether.

This book had the true Arab feel to it. It makes you want to learn or know more about the Saudia culture and the royal family. Some issues in the book were quite difficult to take in or except e.g. the princess drinking and so close to becoming an alcoholic. This is not accepted and to think the Saudi's of all people can fall to that degree-this is what money can bring you. money does not bring happiness and this is what the princess showed. She was missing something and you can't help but like her character-because she spoke out and discussed her life with everyone, even if the Saudi royal family didn't like it.

To learn the fate of some of the grils was distressing. Also to learn that girls got married to men old enough to be thier father-this is not accepted in the western muslim world. Their muslim cultures do vary from the western muslim culture and the asian muslim culture. This shows their own status, tradition are mixed with religion and changes do occur within each country and muslim area.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Meg Blythe on 23 April 2002
Format: Paperback
I really did not have a clue what i was going to read, but once I started reading this book of life behind the veil of Saudi women, I could not put it down. It is heart wrenching in parts; Has a touch of humour, despite the suffering; It is very defiant and is certainly eye opening in a way that we western women could not even imagine, the suffering and iniquities against these women of Saudi Arabia. I fully recommend the follow up book, Daughters of Arabia by Jean P Sasoon. Once you begin reading these books, you will not want to put them down or ever forget their contents.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is not for the faint-hearted. We get to see that in a world full of material priveleges, the Saudi princess lacks but one thing - Freedom. The freedom to work, the freedom to speak, the freedom to think... This book lifts the veil on Saudi Arabia revealing to the reader that in one of the wealthiest lands on Earth it is primitively still a man's world - a world of arrogance, domination, ego and ignorance.
This is the story of Sultana - a Saudi princess - living a life of extreme monetary wealth and yet experiencing poverty within the realm of equality and basic human rights. This is a story of her fight for basic rights for the women of Saudi Arabia. It reveals a land of perversion and untold horror - where females are truly seen as expendable. This is a book you are not likely to forget - it will enrage, sadden and numb you, but the small victories won by Princess Sultana will bring out the occasional smile.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By I. J. Mann on 1 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a truly fabulous book, I was touched, shocked, saddened and enraged in turn. The bravery of 'Sultana' is inspiring. The writing is very good and I was really pleased with the amount I learnt about women in Saudi Arabia and their society in general. I thouroughly recommend this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dolly Mixture on 8 May 2012
Format: Paperback
I am a white western woman, I have been cherished and valued by both my parents, I have two brothers, we have all been treated equally, I have had the freedom of speech, career and lovelife. I chose to leave home, get a good career and buy my own home. I chose the man I wanted to marry, ok the first time it did not turn out so well. But I am now happily married again, a man I chose myself, a man I am happy being with.
This book, and the following books about the life and family of Princess Sultana show a completely different life, a life so vastly different to my own. A life where she is treated as a nothing by the men in her life, luckily, she has married someone she does get on with. But her sister was not so lucky initially, and her Husband was nasty, he was sexually brutal, although no descriptions are given.
In a later book her older sister ends up with a colostomy due to a drunken husband doing exactly as he wanted.
They touch on female circumcision, with the younger sisters did not have to endure. These books show a life where the women are treated as second class citizens, their opinions mean nothing, they can still be stoned to death, the male members of the family decide the punishment for the females, and the men generally see them as sex things, to be used as and when, and just to provide sons. Daughters not being welcome. The men can divorce the women just by saying it, no lengthy solicitor involvement, and can as easily take them back (for a few times at least)
There are some funny parts, and some parts where the men are more sympathetic to the females, but the book is the Princess talking about how things generally are in Saudi Arabia.
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