Mideast ‘Girls’ go wild

Saudi 'Sex and the City' breaks taboos

LONDON — A taboo-busting Saudi bestseller is set to become one of the Mideast’s hottest skeins.

A satcaster, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., is in negotiations with author Rajaa al Sanea to obtain the TV rights to her “Banat al-Riyadh” (The Girls of Riyadh).

Al Sanea, reportedly seeking $1 million for the rights, will pen the screenplay.

Although LBC execs wouldn’t comment on the figures involved, CEO Pierre Daher confirms negotiations are at an advanced stage. “It’s one of the hottest properties around,” says Daher.

The book, which has been compared by some to a Saudi “Sex and the City,” follows the exploits of four upper-class Saudi girls living in Riyadh and the trials and tribulations of their love lives in the conservative kingdom.

“Everyone is amazed that I dare to write this, and blames me for breaking taboos that we are not used to discussing in our society with such frankness — but doesn’t everything have a beginning?” al Sanea writes in the book.

A 25-year-old former dental student, al Sanea has become a cause celebre in Saudi Arabia following last year’s publication of her comparatively racy story, which is written as a series of emails.

The book, published in Lebanon, has sparked huge debate in Saudi Arabia about the plight of young women.

A temporary ban in Saudi Arabia didn’t stop tens of thousands of copies being sold through the black market or downloaded from the Internet.

Somewhat surprisingly, the country’s Court of Grievances eventually threw out a complaint brought by two conservatives who accused it of being “an outrage to the norms of the Saudi society.”

Al Sanea has even received support from some government figures.

Saudi minister of labor Ghazi al Qusaibi, who is an author and poet in his own right, called it “a work that deserves to be read.”

An English translation will be published by Penguin Books in mid-2007.