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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Page Turner, 5 April 2013
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This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
From the first page I was gripped by this unusually honest and enlightening record of the author's many years in Saudi Arabia.
The descriptive writing gives a wonderfully atmospheric picture of the medieval, almost Biblical, Saudi culture when the author and her husband arrived in the country, to its rapid transformation and modernisation.
From her original stand point of apprehension and being almost afraid of becoming invisible in a male-dominated society, the author slowly but surely pushed boundaries and became a ground breaking entrepreneur in the most unlikely of situations. This she did partly by quickly learning Arabic in order to network more easily and befriend the native Saudi population, royalty to nomadic tribes alike.
Despite being incredibly informative, the writing is witty, absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable.
More than anything this book is a love story of how the author and her family fell hopelessly in love with the country, the people and (of course) the wonderful standard of living they were able to enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reviewed by a Once Reluctant Reader, 11 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
I loved this book! I'm not sure why I read it - perhaps because I am always interested in cultural adjustments, conflicts, different attitudes and ways of living. And, to be honest, I was sure I would not enjoy it. WRONG! Kathy tells an amazing story of her time in Saudi Arabia - from her arrival as a young wife with no children to her departure as a mature woman with grown children. She hobnobs with royalty and admits to social blunders. She was "had" by people she trusted, made friends outside the circles of expats, started and ended businesses, struggled to find trustworthy household staff, and managed to navigate her way into and out of sensitive, and potentially dangerous, situations. She pushes boundaries in a society where limitations for women are the norm. (Kathy's limitations are ethical and moral, not culturally defined.) Her sense of humor and the ability to laugh at herself is infectious. Kathy created an amazing life for herself, in spite of, not because of, being married to a high profile and highly paid engineer who takes her eccentricities in stride. It is surprising that a woman of such privilege seems so - well - grounded! In many ways, and putting her privilege aside, Kathy is the woman next door, the one we'd all love to have in our neighborhoods! Having said that, she had her challenges (don't we all?), met them head on, and stayed true to her principles. She's a mover and a shaker, to be sure. Although this is a story of a female, a wife, a mother, and a business woman in a middle eastern culture, men, also, will appreciate Kathy's ambition, humor, frustrations, obsessions to "do something," sensitivity to her husband's positions, empathy, and - dare I say it - abhorrence - for the restricted roles of women, wives, and daughters in the Saudi culture.

Kathy's writing style is smooth, the book is an entertaining read, and, just when you think she's "done it all," she manages to surprise us with another idea or adventure. Five stars, to be sure!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloom where you're planted!, 15 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
The stories in this book brought back to memory my own four year experience in Riyadh in the mid '80s. While not subject to the medieval challenges of 1976, Riyadh, I can attest to the author's authenticity in her depictions of life during the period my family and I were there. The reader will appreciate the author's forthright opinions expressed with razor sharp wit as she draws you in and keeps you reading her daily struggles and strategies for coping with life in a culture hugely antithetical to her own. She and her husband share a zest for adventure which is positively contagious! Their ability to open their minds and hearts to the varied lifestyles and people around them rewards them with a richness of friendship and experience that few expats find in the Middle East. With a sense of fun and a determination to penetrate the barriers of language and culture the author has proven even with regard to Saudi Arabia, as Pamela Harman put it, "that we are more alike than different, no matter one's race, religion, color or gender." Well written, fun and inspiring!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Present at the Creation..., 8 Oct. 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
...to use the title to Dean Acheson's memoir on his participation at the State Department in the creation of post-Second World War II world. Kathy Cuddihy, and her husband, Sean, drew a couple cards to fill an inside straight in life, and were not only present, but like Acheson, participated in the creation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Like so many of us, when they made their initial decision to go to Saudi Arabia, in 1976, they did not consider themselves lucky. Rather, it was viewed as the ultimate hardship post... as is reflected in the title... "Anywhere but..." Those with the right personalities, and outlook on life, and both of them had those essential ingredients, came to the conclusion, usually towards the end of their second year, with the thought of repatriation in mind, that not only were things not so bad... there was a lot that was positively enjoyable, and would be missed, from having taken that "path less traveled." So, like others, they made the decision of "...just one more year...", which, when compounded, spanned almost three decades.

It is a woman's perspective on life in the Kingdom, and there is no question that the "d" restrictions, that is, dress, demeanor, and driving, weigh more heavily on the Western woman than the Western man. And it is compounded by that wonderfully fuzzy and gray era on quasi-legal work. Cuddihy was in that sub-set, with the right personality, to rise to the challenge. She decided to explore, and come to terms with the world around her. At some level, it would seem self-evident, but success lay in breaking out of the endless griping and gossiping of the company coffee klatches. She (and her husband) made non-company friends, explored Riyadh, took up tennis, learned Arabic, and even more seemingly bizarre, certainly from the point of view of other members of the compound, sought out Saudi friends. At least since she is a Canadian woman, she was saved from the charge of being in the CIA! Perhaps it is like first love, when the senses are most aware, since Cuddihy seems to have a fondness, and depicts the very earliest days of their stay in Riyadh in the greatest details. Hardships? Well, there were a few, like no fresh milk, electrical outages, and seemingly random supply disruptions that made "hoarders" of so many. But there seems to be a surfeit of remembrances.

The chief virtue of this book is that it is AUTHENTIC. It rings true in every degree. There is a small cottage industry that pumps out books about the Kingdom that are completely phony, to the same sort of gullible public that would STILL be willing to buy Bernie Madoff paper. A particular bÍte noir of mine is Finding Nouf, which so many Amazon reviewers find plausible.

Her husband, Sean, worked, as an engineer, on two of the major infrastructure projects in the country. For nine years, he worked on the new Riyadh airport, at the time the largest (physical) airport in the world. After a brief period of "exile" working on the new airport project for Hong Kong, they returned to Riyadh, where he was the project manager for the Faisaliyah building, THE signature high-rise, and a defining building of the Riyadh skyline. But his most amazing quality, per Kathy, at least in terms of their relationship, is that he is always right! (Certainly far removed from: "If a husband is alone in the forest, and he speaks, and no one hears it, is he still wrong?") And in terms of her own work, she was rather famous in the Kingdom for running "Design Arabia," a "signature" shop in that signature building.

Quibbles? And they are only that. I think she overstated the danger of making and consuming your own alcohol (p. 70). And I don't think there was any relationship between events in Iran in 1979, and the taking of the mosque in Mecca (Makkah) in the same year. Two completely separate groups of folks, with entirely different reference frames and motivations. (p. 124)

And there was the quip that DID resonate: (in referring to the Afghanis who came to Riyadh to sell their carpets) "`Each year I come, sell carpets, get money, go home, buy guns. War is difficult for my people but Afghanis will not surrender. Foreign invaders will not win.'" He referred to the Russian occupation. I wonder if he still comes to Saudi to earn enough to buy guns to rout the latest assailants."

An authentic account of life in Riyadh, from the perspective of one energetic expat woman. 5-stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable book!, 2 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
Whether recounting hilarious escapades or tackling serious issues with insight, conviction and empathy, Kathy Cuddihy's book, "Anywhere But Saudi Arabia", is note-perfect! Even readers without first-hand knowledge of the Kingdom, provided they have a receptive mind and a sensitive heart, cannot fail to experience some of the joy, warmth and beauty so keenly felt and enthusiastically conveyed by the author. The writer's ability to view the 'cup' as always more than half-full enables her to thrive and blossom, rather than merely survive, in a world few Westerners ever encounter.

A remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More like survival in saudi Arabia,, 28 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
An absorbing, enlightening and most enjoyable book. Kathy's exploits, adventures and survival techniques deserve the utmost respect and admiration.
I feel that I have learnt so much about living in Saudi in the late 70's. A place so culturally adrift from European life at that time.
A very worthy addition to my collection of world travel books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rainbow in Every Storm, 20 Dec. 2012
By 
Pamela Harman (Grand Rapids, Michigan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
Kathy Cuddihy's engaging, fascinating, well written, well documented memoir of her experiences as a Western woman living and working in Saudi Arabia is a must-read for anyone who loves adventure and, like Kathy, is the first to see a rainbow in every storm. Our world today would be a much better place if all of us could embrace cultural differences and social challenges as Kathy does so deftly and with such engaging humor. Kathy Cuddihy was a trail blazer at a time in Saudi Arabian history who touched many lives in a positive way as she forged ahead to prove that we are more alike than different, no matter our race, religion, color or gender. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your inspiring, informative, and compelling story with others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reluctant No More, 22 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
Written in the didactic style of Dan Brown, Kathy has managed to convey not only the wealth and knowledge of her experience s in Saudi Arabia, but also the culture and history of the country, then and now. Saudi Arabia was catapulted into the twentieth century, and Kathy was fortunate to have been able to provide witness to the event. Her quirky, eccentric personality as well as her entrepreneurial spirit allowed her to survive and thrive, with the support of her gentle and wise husband, Sean. Who else but Kathy would refuse to negotiate with Prince Bandar, or need to be declared `an honorary man' in order to navigate the business bureaucracy? Somehow she manages to infiltrate nomadic tribes, dine with princes, and assault a muttawah while en route to jail, not easy feats.

Fast paced, easy to read, and humourous, Kathy's adventures are a respectful romp through Saudi from biblical era to the present. Having shared some of Kathy's experiences during her early days there, I have enjoyed all her books, and eagerly await the next one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Anywhere but Saudi Arabia!, 3 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
An excellent read! I can certainly recommend this book to anyone wishing to go and live in a country, whose culture is very different to his/her own. What makes this book so good is that it isn't just about Saudi Arabia and its people; it is also very much about the author's own strength of character which enables her to be someone in her own right in a society which doesn't normally encourage women to take an active role. Kathy Cuddihy comes across as an adventurous, enterprising and entrepreneurial woman so this book can be seen as a motivational one too - if a woman can achieve what she did in Saudi Arabia then the sky has no limits.

The book is interspersed with the author's humorous take on life as well as her husband's calm and wise comments and that makes for a very enjoyable read. One of those books you can't put down!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 26 July 2013
This review is from: Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat (Paperback)
'Anywhere but Saudi Arabia!' is an extraordinary journey, lived by otherwise ordinary people. One tough decision after another leads to fascinating circumstances, coloured by a host interesting characters. It makes anything seem possible and is proof that rich and wonderful things happen to those who pick up and run with life's possibilities. Kathy describes every one of those decisions that shaped her life with honest emotions, equally split by excitement and trepidation, but never ruled by fear. Each time they took the leap with courage and optimism that was rarely disappointed. The tale left me, as any good book should, wanting more. Highly recommended for anyone with a sense of adventure.
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Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat
Anywhere But Saudi Arabia! Experiences of a Once Reluctant Expat by Kathy Cuddihy (Paperback - 30 Nov. 2012)
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