Princess Sultana Al-Sa’ud was born into Saudi royalty in 1956, in Saudi Arabia. Princess Sultana is one of the direct descendants of King Abdul Aziz. She grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in a society where women are considered inferior to men. Since childhood, she has witnessed the harm and tragedy that is put on the women of Saudi Arabia. After Sara tried to kill herself, Sultana saw the pain her sister, Sara, had suffered through from being married, at only sixteen, to a sadistic man, who was basically just using Sara as a sexual toy for his own convenience. While on vacation in Cairo, one of the most horrible things Sultana witnessed was the rape of a little girl, no more than eight years old, her own brother, Ali, was holding the girl down while his friend, Hadi, was raping her. Sultana doesn’t like to see women treated differently and through her experiences she comes to her own realization that in order for people to be happy in Saudi Arabia, women need to be free and treated as equally as men.
Girls in Saudi Arabia are able to marry once they have their menses, Sultana was married to Kareem when she was sixteen years old. Luckily for her, Kareem treated her fairly and they both loved each other. They had three kids together, a boy and two girls and for about the first seven years of their marriage they were pretty happy until Sultana was diagnosed with breast cancer. After losing one breast she was rid of the cancer cells, but was cautioned not to have any more children so she was sterilized. This lead to Kareem telling her he was going to take a second wife in an effort to have more children. Sultana was enraged and actually ran off with the children for months until Kareem agreed not to take a second wife and Sultana stayed with her husband. Sultana hopes for the freedom of women and is positive in thinking that one day the Saudi women will have their freedom and of course, her own freedom
I believe that Sultana wanted this book written so that she could tell her story of growing up in Saudi Arabia, a place where women are mostly considered to be the property of men, she wants the readers to be aware of the happenings in Saudi Arabia and how the women are treated; since violence towards women is kept very quiet, the majority of people in other countries and societies have very little knowledge of how women are mistreated in Saudi Arabia. She is taking a risk by telling her story and experiences of being a princess and, most importantly, a woman in her own country. Sultana believes that men and women should be treated equally and she wants the world to know that women in Saudi Arabia and some other surrounding places are treated like objects and property and thought of as inferior and lesser than men. Women in Saudi Arabia are often abused by the men in their lives and are given terrible, unjust punishments for crimes they may or may not have committed, like being stoned to death, drowned, or locked in a padded room for the rest of their lives. A lot of crimes that they are punished for would never be thought of as crimes in other countries. When it comes to how women are treated wrongly in Saudi Arabia, silence is the worst possible thing, for if people remain silent the problem will never be solved; Princess Sultana, in sharing her story, helps to break some of that silence, which may, in turn, lead to better lives for the women in Saudi Arabia.
Sultana’s Relationship with Sara
Sultana was always closer to her sister Sara than any other of her sisters and thought highly of Sara. When Sara was told that she was going to be the third wife of a sixty-two year old man, Sultana was hiding in a closet an overheard their mother telling Sara the horrible news. Sultana was almost as upset as Sara for she stated “I slid inside the open closet door and wept silent tears as my sister cursed our father, our land, our culture. She cried so hard… I heard her cry out that she was sure to be sacrificed like a lamb.” (P. 44). A little while after Sara had left with her husband Sultana thought to herself “To me, it was as if Sara were dead; her absence left a black, gaping hole in my life.” (P. 53). Sultana and Sara are so entwined in each other’s life’s and so close that Sultana felt as if she was missing something when Sara had left. Sara and Sultana were always there for each other when needed, for example Sultana was there for Sara after she tried to end her life, Sultana brought her art books and stayed by her side. When Sultana took her children and made her escape from her husband, Sara was the only one she told, because she felt as though Sara would be the only one not to tell her husband or her father. They love each other greatly, so it is no surprise that they would be so close, help each other out, and be there for support in both of their times of need.
• Would Sultana be as strong as she is without a sister like Sara in her life?
• How did Sara attempting to end her own life effect Sultana’s view or opinion of her sister?
• Do you think Sara’s attempted suicide brought them closer or did it drive them apart at all?
Sultana’s Rivalry with her Brother, Ali
Since a young age, Sultana was determined to get back at Ali’s unfairness towards her by getting him into trouble. Ali would get jealous if his sister’s got anything that he may have desired, even food. “Ali slapped me to the ground, but I declined to hand over the shiny red apple just given to me by the Pakistani cook.” (P. 25). Sultana was jealous because Ali, being the male child, was treated better and given more attention by his father; Sultana tried her best at dishing out revenge to Ali, not only because he treated her poorly and wrongly, but also because Sultana wanted her fathers attention and was jealous that Ali got the majority of his time and attention. After Sultana refused to give Ali her apple, he kicked her twice and told on her. “As punishment, Ali was given all my toys. To teach me that men were my masters, my father declared Ali would have the exclusive right to fill my plate at mealtimes.” (P.26). Ali was her enemy and Sultana would do whatever she could to see her brother be punished, just so she could get back at him. She also used revenge as a tool of survival; she could deny the unjust way that women, including, her sisters and mother, and she were treated badly. If Sultana could focus her anger and angst into taking out revenge on Ali, then she didn’t have to think of how she was inferior to her brother and all other men, and at the same time by getting revenge on Ali, she could feel as though her brother got what he deserved for treating his sisters so unjustly and appallingly.
• Was there a time were Sultana was wrong in getting revenge on Ali? Or was there a time when she may have gone to far with trying to get back at him?
• Do you think Ali’s actions in the way he treated women helped make Sultana understand how men and women are unequal?
• Do you think getting revenge on Ali satisfied Sultana?
Sultana’s want and need for her fathers approval and love
Sultana has always wanted and need her father’s approval and has often wonders if her father loves her. Sultana would take out revenge on Ali, for the chance that her father may think less of his own son and think more highly of her. As a child, Sultana was constantly trying to get Ali in trouble; she would do things like break his watch that their father gave Ali. When Ali announced that he was going with Sara and Sultana on their trip to Cairo, she was so irritated and furious that she flushed his headdress down the toilet. She recalled that “When Ali followed, shouting that he would tell father, I slammed the bathroom door on him… Ali’s big toe was broken, and his hand was bruised. By his shouts and moans, the servants thought I was killing him. No one came to Ali’s rescue though.” (P. 63). Not wanting to get into trouble, Sultana tried to cover up what she had done by turning in Ali’s collection of Playboy magazines to the religious men, but in doing so she brought shame to her family, which she felt extremely guilty over. “I began to sob, for I felt the weight of the terrible deed I had committed. Father looked at me in pity… For the first time in my life, my father came and held me in his arms and told me not to worry… The touch that I had been longing for all my life now felt barren, and the joy I had imagined was destroyed in the elusive prize so wrongly taken.” (P. 69). She finally felt the love of her father, but Sultana felt so guilty in causing the incident which disgraced her family, that her fathers love made her feel empty and even guiltier.
• Why do you think Sultana wanted her father’s approval so badly when he treated her like property and like she didn’t even matter?
• Was Sultana right in feeling so guilty when she turned in her brother to the religious men? Should she feel guilty disgracing the men that treat her inferior and unfairly?
• After sultana felt so guilty for turning in Ali to the religious men and in turn bringing shame to the family, do you think she still wanted her father’s approval?
My niece Emmalee was born when I was six years old, when I was the center of attention of my two oldest sisters. When I was younger, My sisters and my Dad were the one’s who took care of me, my two oldest sisters were more like mothers to me than my actual mother. My mother was there every day, but she wasn’t the one who really watched over me. It’s understandable to me that Emma was now the center of attention to her mom and my sister, Jennifer. I was always my sisters, Stefanie’s favorite, but when Emma was born, and for the longest time after that, Stef began to focus on Emma and not me. I love Emma greatly, but it made me jealous not getting my favorite sister’s attention. Stef and I began to grow apart, mostly because I was growing up, Emma was only a tiny part of the reason, but to this day Stef and I are not as close. Sultana was always jealous of the attention and love that her brother Ali got from their father and I was jealous of the Attention that Emma got from my sister Stef. But then Emma’s sisters and brother and cousins were born and a lot of the attention went from Emma to her siblings, so I am certain that she has felt the same thing. Even though I resented Emma a little for a short time, I still continued to love her and now we are like sisters. For the past few years I have thought of her more as a sister than a niece; we have shared so much with each other, secrets and fears, In my heart I feel that she is more of a sister to me than my actual sisters, she is also one of my best friends and one of the people I share all of my feelings with. We are almost exactly alike, we understand each other because our minds pretty much function the same way and without Emma, my existence would not make since to me at all and life just wouldn’t be worth living.
I am comparing Princess to the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. In Pirates of the Caribbean, one of the main characters, Elizabeth, is always told what she needs to do by her father. He is very loving towards her and lenient if she does something he doesn’t approve of. Her father picks a man for her to marry, just like Sultana’s father did. Elizabeth rebels and runs away with a Captain Jack, a pirate and also with the man she really loves, Will. Sultana also escaped her country at one point; Princess Sultana and the character of Elizabeth have a lot in common. They are both born into a society where women are not considered as equal as the men in their lives, though the time period was different.
This book, Princess, was a very good read, it tolled of things I didn’t understand, like the way of life in Saudi Arabia; I never thought that the life of a princess in Saudi Arabia is that undesirable. It helped me to better understand how women are treated unfairly and unjust in different cultures, societies, and countries. Not only did this book communicate greatly how unfair women are treated in Saudi Arabia, but it had great detail as to how they are mistreated and how they are thought of as less or inferior to men. For example, punishment on women is much greater than the punishment set forth on men. I would recommend the book Princess to anyone who wishes to learn about life in Saudi Arabia, not only is this book factual it is also very emotional and at times heart breaking. I would especially recommend that women read this book so that they can understand how mistreated some women are from doing nothing but being born into a different culture and country. They have very little freedom and so many women long for just a taste of freedom, a chance to be treated equally.
Princess Sultana may have taken a risk by telling her story and having her life published for everyone to see, but in doing so, maybe people will better understand just how poorly women are treated in Saudi Arabia. By telling her story, hopefully, she is able to break some of the dreadful silence of the wronged women who have been abused, beaten, punished unfairly, usually without a trial, and worst of all killed. Silence is deadly in these kinds of situations. Sultana understands that by telling her story and the stories of other women who were greatly mistreated, she may be able to help, to make it a better life, equality, and freedom for the future women of Saudi Arabia, as well as her own children.