Green Sands: My Five Years in the Saudi Desert
by Martha Kirk


Texas Tech University Press, 1994. ISBN 0896723372.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 04/01/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

As a memoir, Green Sands: My Five Years in the Saudi Desert gives you a glimpse into the life of a young woman raised in West Texas and then transplanted into the foreign culture of a Muslim world.

When Martha's husband is offered a job to help establish and manage a farm in the harsh Saudi Arabian desert, she's very supportive, although frightened to venture to this new world. They are to be pioneers in the truest sense of the word, with no phones and no television. Women are not allowed to drive and food is hard to come by. Electricity is a sporadic commodity, and in temperatures that regularly exceed 120 degrees, losing power to an air conditioner can be devastating. In her five years there, Martha meets many men, women and children from cultures vastly different from her own and learns to cope with the language barrier, culture shock, and religious taboos. Not only was she to meet with Arab men, but also Egyptian, Pakistani, Indian and other foreign workers on their farm, all with their own special foods, religion and languages.

If you are looking for a technical book that explores the Saudi culture, lifestyles and religion, you won't get it here. What you do get is a real-life diary about the conditions the author must endure, the friendships she makes, and her growing understanding of herself. The stories of the Bedouins who befriend her are entertaining and the encounters with camels, sheep and their herders humorous.I smiled when she recounted her husband's explanation to the natives about why she was always out running in circles. They wanted to know where she was going and when she was going to get there, never truly understanding what it means to go jogging. Attempts to get food and supplies are just that—attempts. You have to be creative and flexible to adjust to a place so far out of an American's comfort zone, and Martha did very well in this endeavor.

This book gives you a glimpse of what it would be like to move to and live within a third-world country and adapt to a culture widely different from one you may have been raised in. Although somewhat loosely edited, the details and story itself will keep you turning the pages.


Martha Kirk and her family reside on a West Texas farm where they grow a variety of crops. The friends they made in Saudi Arabia travel across the globe to visit them on their farm.

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