Abu Dhabi: Humble, welcoming and elegant, Princess Basmah Bint Saud Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud walked into Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, that was held in the capital recently, with no entourage, no fuss and no demands.
She was taking part in a panel discussion on her book, The Fourth Way Law. As soon as word spread of her presence at the event, there was a queue of people who wanted to meet and speak with the princess or simply take a picture with her. She obliged and spent over two hours at the Saudi Arabia Pavilion.
“I am quite at ease with the masses,” she told Gulf News. “It was very interesting [the book fair]. It was a pleasure and honour to be with my fellow countrymen and, in the name of my country, sign my first book,” she added.
Princess Basmah is the granddaughter of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz, and the youngest daughter of the country’s second king, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz. She is also the first royal woman to appear on the cover of a magazine in Saudi Arabia.
Known for her writings in newspapers and magazines, it is the first time she has released a book. The 20-page publication is a theory she has developed where she proposes the possibility of implementing a different system to govern and she calls it the Fourth Way Law. “It is a new theory of the 21st century. It has just been registered by the [US] Congress Library and it gave me a lot of confidence that I was writing about something that made sense,” she said, adding that “everyone in the beginning refused to help me”, referring to when she introduced the theory in 2013. The resistance, she thinks, was due to people’s lack of understanding of what she was presenting and because it was written by a princess. “They don’t think we can write something intelligent. They don’t expect this from a Saudi princess,” she said openly.
The theory looks at what she calls the four fundamentals of life that are required to create a balance; security, freedom, equality, education, with establishing security as the most important of the four.
“It is a theory about how to construct a new society based on new fundamentals,” she said.
She pressed on with her idea despite criticism and rejections and it paid off. These days, she receives invitations from across the globe to discuss her theory. The invitation that is most cherished by her was one for a book signing session in her home country.
“To sign a book in my own hometown, in the capital of Saudi Arabia … for a princess is a huge deal. It was like a beautiful landing of a journey. I thank God for that,” she said.
To understand why this was so important to her, one has to understand how far she has come. A mother of five children, she caused a stir in Saudi social circles in 2007 when she became the first Saudi royal woman to appear on the cover of a magazine in the country, for which she took the permission of the then King. “I am very respectful of my family … and I always ask their permission before I do anything.”
“It opened ways for women and journalists,” said Princess Basmah. “When I had my picture taken, there was no woman allowed to have their picture put in a magazines or newspaper at the time.”
She confessed that even her eldest son was not thrilled with the idea. However, he is now very proud and supportive of her work, hence she keeps going, she said.
But she is adamant that issues such as women working or driving in Saudi have been blown out of proportion in the media. “Women have been working [in Saudi Arabia] for 20 years but nobody knew that,” she said.
Princess Basmah said women worked in places such as hospitals and schools but they did not work in public places because it was not socially acceptable. “But now the law has changed to allow them to work in the public sector.” A change that she felt is a response to changes in society.
Asked to explain how the matter of women not being allowed to drive has even come about, she said, “It might seem weird to you, actually, the respect of men towards women and protecting them have led to this.
“The men wanted to protect the women so much that it led to overprotection in the cities.”
She insists it is an issue which will resolve in its own time without anyone’s influence and it is not the most pressing matter for women in Saudi Arabia at this time.
“They [media and outsiders] take women driving as a pointer to the freedom of women. Driving is not an indication of freedom or of an individual’s rights,” she said.