Desert Governess

by Ellis, Phyllis

Badly in need of a new start in life, Phyllis answered an advertisement: English Governess wanted for Prince and Princesses of Saudi Arabian Royal Family. She soon found herself whisked off to the desert to look after – in The King and I tradition – the children of HRH Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, the King’s brother. In this frank personal memoir, Phyllis describes her sometimes risky reactions to her secluded, alien lifestyle in a heavily guarded marble palace, allowed out only when chaperoned, veiled and clad from head to foot in black. Both as a Governess and as a modern western woman she constantly ran up against frustrating prohibitions and unexpected moral codes, only a few of which she could work her way around – usually in the interests of her young royal charges. Phyllis explores sympathetically and from the inside her impressions of the country, of Islam, of Muslim beliefs and customs, and of Saudi dress, cuisine, and attitudes to the family, women, marriage and divorce. Above all she gives a fascinating account of the secret life of what is effectively an all-female world, and if you think women only make themselves look glamorous and sexy – and dance without inhibition – for men, then think again.