I got my Intrepid Travel newsletter a few days ago. At first, I was excited because they have just added a trip to Saudi Arabia to their catalog.
Then I read a little bit about Saudi Arabia. I wanted to go there because I couldn't, which might seem a little silly, but it's always been an issue that I can't go through Saudi Arabia. When I was in Kuwait, I had to take a plane to go anywhere, because Iraq was clearly off-limits for now, and I wasn't allowed to do something so simple as catch a scheduled luxury coach that went through Saudi Arabia. When I was coming up north from Africa, it would have been much easier to catch a ferry from the African Horn to Saudi Arabia and go north by bus from there to Europe rather than try to get a visa for Sudan. (Of course this would have been a major turning point in Marie-history and things would be quite different today, but anyway...)
So I was excited because suddenly something that had been impossible was possible.
Then I read the trip notes. I would not be allowed anywhere without an accompanying male, and I'd have to cover up in an Abaya from head to toe.
I thought about how hot I get in Egypt when I wear long sleeves in the middle of the day. How warm it was in Iran with that coat and headscarf on all the time. And socks. And I thought about cultural tolerance, and my personal views. And where I draw the line on what I think is right and wrong, and on whether it is even appropriate to apply my values to other cultures.
Then I read on in the itinerary that as non-Muslims, we can't even go to Mecca, which is surely the most interesting place in the entire country.
Would I fly to New York City and only visit Newark and Maplewood? Fly to London and spend the whole time in Slough? Of course not.
Forget Saudi Arabia. I'm not going to suppress my values, sweat like a pig, pay a lot of money, and kiss some visa officer's butt just to go see the equivalent of Staten Island.*
*Apologies to my former home of Staten Island, which is not a fair comparison since you can actually see the Statue of Liberty from there. Further apologies to Intrepid, who really are offering a wonderful opportunity to those more tolerant and enthusiastic than tired old me.