Carmen Bin Ladin,
Inside the Kingdom:
My Life in Saudi Arabia

(Time Warner, 2004)

Today, the Bin Laden name is forever associated with terrorist atrocity, but this Bin Laden has a different story to tell. Carmen is of Swiss Persian parentage and she married into the family in 1974.

Her story opens on the fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001. She tells us that for some reason she knew that her brother-in-law was involved and she realized that her life and that of her daughters would change.

Carmen's insights into the lives of the people of Saudi Arabia from the time when she married and moved there are profound. Her descriptions of that way of life are interspersed with background items relating to her infamous brother-in-law.

Such stories should be required reading, because we never know enough about people who may become enemies or allies. All too often we are content to accept the peripheral items that filter down through newscasts, and we hear a name and attribute certain characteristics to the person.

Hearing this story read by Shohreh Aghdashloo, we are reminded that, regardless of the name or family, everyone is different. Carmen Bin Laden has a story to tell that is tangential to the terrorist but is her own. It is a tale of restrictions and contrasts. It is a story of family life as many will never have experienced. It tells of struggle and cultures that we can only vaguely know without having lived in them.

In short, this glimpse inside the kingdom will illuminate our understanding of a nation that has done and will in the future cast its shadow and influence over many of us.

by Nicky Rossiter
15 July 2006

Buy it from