Diplomacy and Friendship Ambassador’s Wife in Gulf War Riyadh

Nora Lever


  • 288 pages • paperback • 5.5" x 8"
  • ISBN: 978-0-9865166-8-9
  • $29.95 CAN/US
  • 2017

Nora Lever’s ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ came in September 1989. Taking leave from her senior position in Canada's House of Commons, she flew with her husband, Allan, to Riyadh, where he would be ambassador to Saudi Arabia and North and South Yemen.

Nora relished the rich social and cultural life of the Diplomatic Quarter, and she and Allan made many good friends and came to know senior Saudi officials and royals. The muezzin’s call, summoning the faithful to prayer five times a day, moved her deeply, and two spectacular weddings showed her womenís rich social life despite rigid segregation. She wrestled with wearing the traditional abaya, knew and supported the courageous women who dared to drive, and taught English to young women preparing for business.

After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the embassy backed up Canada's role in the emerging coalition against Saddam and distributed gas masks to expatriates. When war broke out in mid-January 1991, Nora helped make the embassy a nerve centre for expats and a welcoming oasis for visiting officials. She, Allan, and the staff spent nights in the bomb shelters as Iraqi Scud missiles flew overhead.

Her and Allan’s trips showed them the haunting beauty and the extraordinary architecture of the Arabian peninsula and the generous hospitality of even its poorest inhabitants. They drove with British friends from Yemen’s magnificent capital, Sana'a, south to legendary Aden on the Arabian Sea; visited the desert farm of a Saudi prince at Christmas and nearly froze; and inspected a Canadian field hospital under construction during the Gulf War.

More than a quarter-century later, Nora dips once more into her diaries and brings to vivid life for us, in a vastly different world, her adventures in the mysterious, haunting, traditional, fabulously wealthy, strikingly modern, endlessly hospitable Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.