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Vacation in Saudi Arabia?

Posted by Richard on July 21, 2006

Dolphins swim in the Red Sea, south of Jeddah, in Saudi ArabiaI’ve had this sitting around for about a week and finally got around to finishing it: At the direction of King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia is promoting itself as a tourist destination:

Abdullah, a reformer, says his country is more than just the former home of Osama bin Laden and a breeding ground for Islamic extremism.

"He wants to show the world a different face to the kingdom, said Mishari al Thaybi, a Saudi writer and analyst for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat.

It’s all part of a greater plan to open up the country, to show that though it is Arab and Islamic, it is also modern and moderate.

There’s much for tourists to do and see in Saudi Arabia. It’s not all just desert, you know. There’s scuba diving among the dolphins in cerulean waters. There are stunning, unspoiled coral reefs and pristine Red Sea and Persian Gulf beaches. There are verdant mountains teeming with wildlife. There are hundreds of fascinating cultural and archeological sites.

According to Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdel Aziz, the secretary-general of the Saudi tourism commission, which is licensing tour operators for non-Muslim visitors, Saudi Arabia is eager to have you come and see what it has to offer:

"It not a problem for us to open up. We just want to make sure we are doing it right," Prince Sultan said.

Umm, yeah, well… that "doing it right" part does have a few gotchas for us infidels. Don’t expect any alcohol, and don’t try to smuggle any in; I think they cut off your hand for that.

The tourism commission has prepared a multi-language booklet that explains all the rules you must abide by. Here are a few (emphasis added):

Tours by groups of both sexes will be allowed – as long as a father or brother is with any single women under 40.

"The tourists must comply with the social conducts of the kingdom, to know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed, what to wear and what not to wear," said Saad al-Kadi, adviser to Prince Sultan.

All female tourists will be required to dress according to Saudi tradition: covered from head to toe with only their face, hands and feet exposed. And in the most conservative city, the capital, Riyadh, women must wear a black robe over their clothes.

If tourists choose to travel during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, tourists will not be allowed to eat or drink in public during fasting hours.

One thing visitors won’t do, however, is tour Islam’s most holy sites, including the cities Mecca and Medina. They are off limits to non-Muslims.

And when they say "off limits," they mean it. I believe infidels who ignore the ban and enter Mecca or Medina are beheaded. I don’t know if the tourism commission’s booklet makes that clear. Make sure your satellite navigation system is reliable. Taking the wrong exit could get you killed.


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3 Responses to “Vacation in Saudi Arabia?”

  1. DirtCrashr said

    I’m not sure there’s a lot of Islamists scuba-diving – it’s not that easy to snorkel with a full beard, it seeps water into the mask – at least that was my experience with just a mustache. So I was tired with it and shaved it off – which is somethign not every Muslim can easily do, bound as they are by Tradition. In Hawaii we saw a young Islamic couple try to snorkel, the woman went first while her husband watched their son. She had a real struggle getting the mask over her head-scarf, and wearing a light-weight robe and track-pants waded into the surf – she must have been weighed-down by all that clothing even if some was high-tech lightweight stuff. In the water swaths of fabric are a whole different ball game.

    At least she tried, because if you go to Hawaii and neglect the underwater marine life you’re really missing half of what’s going on.

    It’s really no small wonder that they’re such a bitter and easily enraged people, they have so many self-imposed restrictions they’re practically immobilized and strangled by Custom everywhere they turn.

  2. Karridine said

    The Saudis, like Muslims, Christians, Jews and others around the world, have been waiting to learn of Baha’u’llah’s Coming, and will soon learn of His love and knowledge, no matter how the mullahs, imams and clergy strive to keep them from adoring Him!

  3. Howaboutsometruth said

    You can’t be serious about the hand cutting law for smuggling alcohol… I would really like to see your references because I have personally seen people being let in with a slap on the wrist not the whole thing cut off, oh but you know better because you preach from 5000 miles away don’t you. Anyway, the way I see it, if a country doesn’t want you to bring something in, don’t, you wouldn’t want to smuggle drugs into the Holland where they sell them in the cafes! If you really need it and can’t live without alcohol during your time off, there are other destinations that would gladly serve you. I don’t climb Everest on my days off, I hate the snow. I scuba with a goatee and my mask doesn’t leak, got pictures to prove it too. I would love it if you would allow me to post them since you don’t mind posting pictures yourself. Oh and another thing about the covering up of women, try having a girl wear a mini skirt in the Vatican, Buddhist temple or a holy Jewish shrine… Anyway, tourism in Saudi isn’t directed to people who are closed minded and need to be around people who approve of them, it for people who want something new and want to learn about the culture we have and had for thousands of years even before Europeans tripped on the US and ethnically cleansed its people to take their place. But I guess we’re an easy target these days… So go ahead take your best shot, you still can’t come scuba in the nice parts of the red sea HA!

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