LETTER # 2
From Princess Sultana Al Saud
from Arabic into English on November 4, 2002
world twisted and turned in many directions on that dark day
when airplanes piloted by men from my own land sliced holes into
buildings, holes into many human hearts, and altered the world
from the highest mountains to the deepest seas.
Since that day, I have felt a heavy sadness rule my heart and
have lived without the ability to produce the words that I
wished to say to the readers of the books about my life.
Like every feeling person, I wept bitter tears at the grief and
anguish those misguided men created. I wept more bitter tears
of disbelief when many Arabs expressed joy at the agony of
Americans. I could not understand their joy. I am a mother and
carry a mother’s heart in my breast and I mourn for every
mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, wife and husband
who lost the ones they love.
want to share my feelings with you.
that day, many Al Saud family members were in the Saudi mountain
city of Taif, where we often travel to escape the terrible
desert heat of Riyadh. My family had lived a routine day of
visiting, eating, and playing backgammon with each other. We
were preparing to gather for an evening meal when one of my
daughters rushed into my sitting room and screeched so loudly
that I believed for a moment that our beloved King Fahd, who has
been ill for more than one year now, had passed away. My
child’s words were mingled with shouts and it was several
moments before I gathered that a terrible calamity had taken
place in America. Although shaken, I followed my child into the
main television room to discover the source of her terror.
Many Saudi Arabian citizens do not enjoy the privilege of a
satellite television mechanism to listen to the news of the
world, but my family is fortunate in this respect. We were
able to see the events as they unfolded.
Watching the chaos of New York, I stood frozen in disbelief. My
mind could not understand the vision I was seeing. With my hand
over my heart I suddenly recalled that my own beloved son was
traveling. My mother’s heart nearly ceased beating until Kareem
reminded me that Abdullah was a world away from New York City.
Still, I would not stop shouting until Kareem located the
whereabouts of my son and I knew with certainty that he had not
been an innocent passenger on one of the tragic flights. Once I
knew my son was still with the living, I concentrated on the
horror overtaking the many innocent souls.
Once I was able to move my feet, I collapsed on the sofa and sat
like one paralyzed. For hours I sat and moaned. I did not
eat. I did not sleep. Maha, claiming she was worried about my
pale color, brought me a glass of apple juice and held it to my
lips until I swallowed some liquid.
None in my family slept or ate for that entire night. The
scenes of burning and falling buildings were so shocking that
our thoughts did not take us to the culprits of the crime. We
rationalized that the first pilot of the plane had suffered a
heart attack and that the second pilot had become hysterical and
lost control of his plane when he saw the burning building in
his path. When it became clear that the acts were intentional,
we could not bear the idea. In small places in the backs of our
minds each of us silently prayed that the footprints of the
terror would not lead to any Arab.
Never in our wildest imagination did we consider that believers
of our own faith, and citizens of our own country, could be so
cruel. For sure, every human feeling had departed from the
hearts of the men who had caused the great calamity.
When time revealed that it was purposeful doing from people of
our land, members of the Saudi royal family were numb with
disbelief and grief.
Although these are difficult words to write, I will be honest in
this letter about Arab emotions. This is the heartbreaking
truth that I discovered. Although the sane rulers in the Arab
world were miserable with the truth, and saw that the events of
that day could not bring advantage to their own lives, and would
indeed create numerous difficulties in the area, those who do
not rule were dancing with glee. While it is true that not
every Arab danced a dance of victory, too many believed that
every tear shed for each death was justified.
watched the American and European television channels and I saw
that in some Arab lands there was much celebration about a dark
day. The celebrations did not come only from the world of
Muslim believers. Many Europeans were not unhappy for America.
I had members of my own family traveling in Europe. It was
reported to me that on the day of the attacks, and the week
after the attacks, most Europeans were stunned and
grief-stricken. After a week had passed, there were many
whispers in France and Germany and other European countries that
America and Americans had suffered a deserving blow. This I do
While I will acknowledge that I do not favor many of America’s
foreign policies, I will hope for the day that no human being
suffers pain, injury, or death at the hands of another human
When the full truth of that day was finally revealed and it was
discovered that Osama bin Laden, a son of a respected man in my
own land, created the nightmare in his dreams and delivered his
nightmare to the world on the back of giant planes, I was glad
that Mohammed bin Laden, the father of Osama, had not lived to
see the shame of what his son had become. My own father was
once a friend of Mohammed bin Laden and since that day I have
heard my father say that if the father was still with the
living, that he would disown the son. Such does not happen in
the Arab world unless the offence is enormous.
When it was revealed that young men with promise had been turned
into deliverers of death and destruction, I wept for every
have said many prayers of gratitude since that terrible day. I
am thankful that I am the mother of a son who does not possess
the capability of harming another human being. I am thankful
that I am the mother of a daughter who is sensitive to the point
of being foolish over the feelings of animals. I am thankful
that I am the mother of yet another daughter who spends her free
time plotting how to help other women escape lives of sadness.
am thankful for these blessings.
I have been
told that many of you have asked how I am doing and what is
happening in my life. I am humbled with the idea that there are
people in the world who care about me, a stranger to their
Although women are still not free in my land, there are some
areas that are less stressful. Our society is still segregated
by sex but many Saudi females are now educated. Other Saudi
females are now allowed to own businesses, although they must
have a male front who claims to be the owner. I live in a
society where much about women is “hidden.” There is so far to
go in so many areas.
ask my own government, which is composed of men of my own
blood: When will women drive? When will women be allowed to
walk out of their homes without their faces covered in black?
When will the government pass restrictions on mistreatment of
foreign female workers in this land? When? I am weary of
broken promises. I want to see this change before I pass from
Although there are a few women brave enough to discard the veil,
and those women live in the city of Jeddah, they still are wary
of the reactions they often receive from the religious
authorities and young Saudi males who believe it their duty to
restrict every woman.
sisters and I continue to work with women who have no hope in
life. We have our moments of joy when we are successful. We
have our times of grief when we cannot save a young woman from a
life of terror at the hand of a cruel man.
daughters have changed little with the passing of years. Each
has remained locked inside the same determined personality.
Maha is an educated young woman who is devoting her life to the
cause of helping women. Amani is still convinced that the old
ways are best, although she is less vocal about her beliefs,
which is a joy to my ears. My son Abdullah has married since
the last book of my life was printed. His wife is a beautiful
young cousin who is now in university studying.
Kareem and I will be grandparents when God wills that blessing
upon us. Such an idea is a shock to my mind. I look in the
mirror and see a woman in her forties, but I still feel much
like the young girl who used to sit on my mother’s knee.
still miss my beloved mother who would dearly love to see the
children of her youngest child.
Where have the years of this life gone?
Although I am sad while writing this letter, I bid you a fond
farewell, my readers. My heart is forever grateful that you
Princess Sultana Al Saud