Summary and book reviews of Inside The Kingdom by Carmen Bin Ladin

Inside The Kingdom

My Life in Saudi Arabia

by Carmen Bin Ladin

Inside The Kingdom
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2004, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2005, 224 pages

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Book Summary

The ex-wife of Osama Bin Ladin's older brother speaks out in this shocking, impossible to put down memoir.

On September 11, 2001, Carmen Bin Ladin heard the news that the Twin Towers had been struck. She instinctively knew that her brother-in-law was involved in these horrifying acts of terrorism, and her heart went out to America. She also knew that her life and the lives of her daughters would never be the same again.

In 1974 Carmen, half-Swiss and half-Persian, married into the Bin Laden family. She was young and in love, an independent European woman about to join a complex clan and a culture she neither knew nor understood. In Saudi Arabia, she was forbidden to leave her home without the head-to-toe black abaya that completely covered her. Her face could never be seen by a man outside the family. And according to Saudi law, her husband could divorce her at will, without any kind of court procedure, and take her children away from her forever.

Carmen was an outsider among the Bin Laden wives, their closets full of haute couture dresses, their rights so restricted that they could not go outside their homes-not even to cross the street-without a chaperone. The author takes us inside the hearts and minds of these women-always at the mercy of the husbands who totally control their lives, and always convinced that their religion and culture are superior to any other. And as Carmen tells of her struggle to save her marriage and raise her daughters to be freethinking young women, she describes this family's ties to the Saudi royal family and introduces us to the ever loyal Bin Laden brothers, including one particular brother-in-law she was to encounter-Osama.

In 1988, in Switzerland, Carmen Bin Ladin separated from her husband and began one of her toughest battles: to gain the custody of her three daughters. Now, with her candid memoir, she dares to pull off the veils that conceal one of the most powerful, secretive, and repressive countries in the world--and the Bin Laden family's role within it. Inside The Kingdom is shocking, impossible to put down, and a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the events of today's world.

Chapter 1
9/11

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, WAS ONE OF THE MOST TRAGIC dates of our lifetimes. It took, and shattered, the lives of thousands of innocent people. It robbed the Western world of its sense of freedom and security. For me, it was a nightmare of grief and horror—one that will imprison me and my three daughters for the rest of our lives.

And yet 9/11 began as a lovely Indian summer day. I was enjoying a leisurely drive from Lausanne to Geneva with my eldest daughter, Wafah, when one of my closest friends, who was working in New York, called me on my cell phone.

"Something terrible just happened," he told me, his voice urgent, from his office in Manhattan. "I'm watching the news. It's incredible: A plane hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center." And then, his voice rising further, he yelled, "Wait a minute—there's another plane—it's going straight toward the second tower. Oh my God"—he was screaming now—"it hit the second ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

No doubt there are more erudite and learned books written post 9/11 (and before, for that matter, for the few people who were interested enough to read the warning signs). However, few have the up close and personal touch of Carmen Bin Ladin's memoir - the Swiss-born ex-wife of Yeslam, Osama's older brother. The life she describes for women in Saudi Arabia is consistently oppressive, and the mentality of the exceedingly rich Bin Ladin family is unnerving to say the least.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (291 words).

Media Reviews

USA Today - Carol Memmott

Bin Ladin's story is a courageous one. To stand up as a woman and share her personal experiences and feelings, although quite subjectively, about the Bin Laden family's daily life in Saudi Arabia is surely a bold and possibly consequential act.

The New York Times

Makes a fiery case against what its author calls the oppression and fanaticism that dominates much of Saudi society. Her unabashed conclusion: 'The Saudis are the Taliban, in luxury.'

Publishers Weekly

Addicted to the "I-married-the-Mob" genre? Try this variation: smart women who marry Islamic fundamentalists....The gravity of the events Carmen writes of, her insider's perspective and her engaging style make this memoir a page-turner.

International Herald Tribune

Carmen Bin Ladin chronicles her nine years of married life in a puritanical, male-dominated community where 'women are no more than house pets'....the book is a diary-style account of her struggle to cope with rules and strictures as suffocating as the desert climate.

Paris Match

Tells how she fell in love with the rich Saudi Arabian that she met in Geneva, and how, after the early days of happiness, she had to face the reality of life within a powerful Saudi family...Today she has chosen to tell the truth...For her it is the only way to fight against the terror.

Le Figaro

Takes us into the heart of the ruling class of Saudi Arabia, and into the Bin Laden tribe...The Middle Ages in the desert with dollars added...she fled the clan, fought to save her children, publicly condemned Osama, and criticized Saudi Arabia: that's a lot.

Reader Reviews

kate lessig

I could not put this book down. With compelling honesty and clarity Carmen Bin Ladin tells the story of how women for the love of a husband and children can bit by bit be swallowed by the powers that sustain their lives. Yet it is the triumph of her ...   Read More

Suzanne Horne


This book should be read by everyone in America for
a comprehensive understanding of the country.
I lived in Riyadh for 5 years and agree with everything
in the book. Even with a U.S. government umbrella, ...   Read More

louise

Truth
I found the writing simple and non sensationalist. This lady was not trying to create a literary masterpiece. the content was the truth .As one who worked for the Bin Ladens during the 90's inside and outside of KSA i admire the author in her quest ...   Read More

in-love-with-literature

There was nothing spectacular about either the content or the style. A rather simple expression of emotions that were supposedly evoked by the author's life in Saudi Arabia. A well written piece of literature makes one sympathize with even the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

If you're interested in learning more about Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabi religious sect, you might find this Washington Post article to be of interest.

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