SAUDI ARABIA: Culture and Customs of Saudi Arabia

Article excerpt

SAUDI ARABIA Culture and Customs of Saudi Arabia, by David E. Long. Westport, CT and London, UK: Greenwood Press, 2005. xv + 110 pages. Map. Chron. Color photos. Gloss, to p. 114. Bibl. to p. 118. Index to p. 124. $49.95.

Reviewed by Deborah S. Akers

David E. Long's Culture and Customs of Saudi Arabia, geared toward a non-specialist lay audience, gives an easily accessible account of modern Saudi Arabian society and culture. Well written and easy to read, the book reflects the author's insights and observations acquired while living and working in the Kingdom as a diplomat with the US Department of State. A long-time consultant on Middle East and Islamic politics and international terrorism, Long incorporates material often difficult to access by the general reader. Framing his narrative within a historical and ecological context, he attempts to render understandable to readers what he describes as a historically inaccessible, highly conservative, and traditional society confronted and struggling with the present-day forces of modernization and globalization.

Long's objective is to enable his readers to acquire an understanding of what on the surface seems incomprehensible; in other words, to fathom a worldview different from their own. Given contemporary events in the Middle East, the central importance of Saudi Arabia both geographically in the region and spiritually in the Islamic world, and the barrage of sensationalist reporting and misinformation churned out by the popular media, a book such as this is most welcome and needed.

Culture and Customs of Saudi Arabia is divided into seven chapters, of which the first and second are the most important. In these chapters, Long explains how harsh ecological and geographical conditions and historical circumstances contributed to the development of a closed, kin-based, and highly conservative society and the immense role of Islam in defining its value system and worldview.

In chapter two on Islam, he discusses the all-encompassing nature of Islam as a body of divine laws, rules for social conduct, and obligations that do not demarcate the sacred from the secular, a system of governance, and a basis for political action as they relate to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Saudi identity and worldview. …

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