Three years after 9/11, in 2004, the Kingdom decided to give the tourism business another try, this time hiring a public-relations firm to get things rolling.The Web site of the resulting Supreme Commission for Tourism was “a disaster,” one Saudi official abashedly recalls, shaking his head.Armed with moxie and a Burqini, the author confronts the limits of Saudi Arabian hospitality, as well as various male enforcers, learning that, as always, it matters whom you know.I wanted to know all about Eve.“Our grandmother Eve?” asked Abdullah Hejazi, my boyish-looking guide in Old Jidda.Under a glowing Arab moon on a hot winter night, Abdullah was showing off the jewels of his city—charming green, blue, and brown houses built on the Red Sea more than a hundred years ago.
But this cemetery bit took me aback.“Can they go in if they’re dead?
The royals doubled down on the deal when Islamic fundamentalists took over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, in 1979.
Now, with bin Laden’s attacks, the bargain the royals struck with the fundamentalists—allowing anti-Western clerics and madrassas to flourish and not cracking down on those who bankroll al-Qaeda and terrorism—had borne its poison fruit.
Just the vacation spot for a headstrong, adventure-loving, cocktail-imbibing, fashion-conscious chick.
Long averse to non-Muslim curiosity seekers, the Kingdom is now flirting with tourism, though drinking is forbidden and women can’t drive—or do much of anything—without a man.