4. Saudi Arabia Exposed (2005)

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  • A highly informed, temperate, and understanding account of a country… that is an enigma…. Bradley, although based in Jeddah, traveled far and wide throughout the country in an effort to map the regional tensions and cultural distinctions that make Saudi Arabia much more diverse and complicated than the smooth propaganda of its government would allow.The New York Times
  • Bradley is at his best when he profiles common Saudis, juxtaposing their humanity with the brutality and profligacy of the Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia Exposed brings to life the tensions between rulers and ruled, offering poignant evidence of widespread disillusionment with the royal family.Foreign Affairs
  • Bradley’s visa and residency permit, plus fluency in Arabic, allowed him to travel more freely in the kingdom than is common for Westerners and to get candid opinions from citizens at many levels of society. Here he depicts a country in which allegiance to the central authority is in strong conflict with other, more traditional allegiances, such as to tribe or region. Differences among groups within Islam are especially sharp in this country, and recent oil wealth and development imposed from the top down have created additional divisions. Recommended as popular background reading on a country much in the news.Library Journal
  • The most revealing and important book on the real Saudi Arabia to have been published in years… Bradley gives the insights of a Saudi insider who knows and loves the country, and one who is also a Western journalist; he is someone who knows how the game is played on both sides, as very few Westerners do.United Press International
  • As the only Arabic-speaking Western journalist in the kingdom for 2 1/2 years from mid-2001, Bradley (based in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast of the Hijaz region, rather than Riyadh) had a unique vantage. He offers a window on two different Saudi Arabias. One is the fundamentalist Wahhabi kingdom, “governed by perhaps the most corrupt family the world has ever known, a place teeming with extremists, where children are taught that ‘the Jews’ are the eternal enemy, and where Westerners are periodically blown up in their residential compounds or gunned down in the street by attackers filled with hatred for them and seeking martyrdom.” The other is a country “where Westerners … can — and often do — encounter the finest traditions of Islamic hospitality, generosity, and kindness….And, increasingly, [it] is a place where the main concern for perhaps the majority of the population, the one thing in addition to their faith that binds them, despite their many differences, is … whether they and their children will be able to find a job.” Bradley used his language skills and the access afforded by his position to penetrate the more thoughtful sections of Saudi society. [Saudi Arabia Exposed] contribute[s] significantly to the debate. . . . Bradley had a unique vantage. Buy this book.The Los Angeles Times Book Review 

    arab spring

    Arabic edition of After the Arab Spring

  • [Bradley] uses a graceful journalist’s pen to write with scholarly authority [and] shows a sensitivity rare for a Westerner, reaching directly to the society’s core.The Nation
  • John R. Bradley was invited into the homes, offices, salons and even gay clubs of one of the world’s most insular countries. He witnessed a beheading, picnicked in the desert with a nephew of Osama bin Laden’s and visited a mountain tribe of perfumed men who wear flowers in their hair. Yet what’s most startling about Saudi Arabia Exposed is how staunchly he resists compiling a tabloid-style expose in favor of a more thoughtful, incisive portrait of a fractured nation.… A remarkable volume. – Newsweek
  • Cultured, curious, and with a fine journalistic sense…, Bradley got deeper into the grains of this desert country than most other Westerners. [He] observed the contradictions, tensions, and resistance that undermine the legitimacy of the Saudi regime.BBC ONLINE
    “Saudi Arabia Exposed”:
  • Bradley’s book… could not be more timely. Brimming with hard-won information, it lifts the lid on a key Arab country.—Al-Ahram Weekly (EGYPT)
  • A book recommendation: Several reviewers call Saudi Arabia Exposed… the best work on the country in decades.Knight Ridder
  • Offers insight into Saudi life seldom reported in the West…. Bradley had a rare opportunity to travel, meet people from different backgrounds, and… experience the ‘downstairs’ side of life there.The New York Post
  • Making an excellent case for future trouble from religious fanatics bent on regional and world domination, Bradley explains how the tenets of Islam are perverted to manipulate the poor, the malcontents and the dispossessed, who then aim their hatred at America and Europe . . . This is a disturbing and well-written book.The Oklahoman
  • Bradley . . . succeeded in traveling to [Saudi Arabia’s] most remote corners . . . This book makes the Saudi kingdom into an energetic and multi-dimensional place where religion and its perils are no doubt important, but only part of the picture.—Haaretz (ISRAEL)
  • Bradley occupied for two years a privileged position from which to observe the evolution of the kingdom following the Sept. 11 attacks. [He] immersed himself in the world of the Saudis. With powerful anecdotes, Bradley explores the frustration of Saudi youth, the ignorance of many Western expatriates, and the meteoric rise of crime despite the severity of punishments — because of the impoverishment of a segment of the population (native and immigrant). The most interesting argument concerns the ability of the Al-Saud to keep a grip over the regions, with a resurgence of regional identities that could defy prediction and eventual undermine the unity of the kingdom.Le Monde diplomatque
  • Recounting visits to Saudi Arabia’s regions, Bradley underscores the quasi-imperial composition of the regime: rule by the centrally situated al-Saud clan, and acquiescence to varying degrees by the tribal south, the Shiite east, and the historically commercial Hijaz along the Red Sea. The al-Saud alliance with the Wahhabi clergy completes Bradley’s picture frame of the regime, although the picture itself is provided in details from the day-to-day lives of ordinary Saudis whom the author meets. The image posits the modern alongside the medieval, and the attractively hospitable against the repellently barbaric, though Bradley remains curious and engaged throughout. For readers interested in the social forces at work in the country, including terrorism, Bradley provides perceptive access to current trends.Booklist
  • Bradley is at his best when he writes about the press, providing what is truly an insider’s look and untangling some of the knotted ties between the media, the Saudi government and the United States.Publishers Weekly
  • The author’s empathy for the ordinary, the customary and the contingent . . . makes this a remarkable book.The Straits Times