Jeddah Diary • Olivia Arthur • Magnum Photos

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Jeddah Diary

Olivia Arthur's book explores the paradoxical world of Saudi Arabia's coastal city of Jeddah

Olivia Arthur

Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary A saudi woman wearing the special gown for saying prayers at home. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2009 © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos

My first impression of Saudi Arabia was the big empty roads and houses with impossibly high walls. Everything seemed to be happening out of sight, somewhere else, behind closed doors.

I had been sent to Jeddah to teach a workshop for local women photographers. My students introduced me to bits of their world, and gradually I made friends and came back again. Getting a glimpse behind those often closed doors, I tried to piece together an understanding of the bubble-world that they live in.

 

Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary Diana bathing in her Islamic swimsuit at Durrat-Al-Arous. Durrat-Al-Arous, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2009.

*Reproduced from a 6x4 machine print © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary A mother and child wait for the rest of the family to come in the popular fast food restaurant Al Baik. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos

"I almost felt that the more time I spent there, the less I understood"

- Olivia Arthur
Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary Wedding dress. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2010. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary Diana's Islamic swimsuit. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary Enclosed private swimming pool. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary A Saudi woman poses in the kitchen in her abaya. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2009 © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos

It’s a paradoxical world where the balance between what is considered acceptable and what is totally outrageous is very fragile indeed. So many different sets of rules, rules that can be so strict, and yet sometimes the rules just don’t matter at all. I almost felt that the more time I spent there, the less I understood.

Olivia Arthur | Jeddah Diary Watching TV at home. *A print of the image has been rephotographed under a reflective light to partially conceal identity. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 2009. © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos