Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saudi Arabia Open for Business

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.


Marie Javins said...

I'm officially grumpy and intolerant now.

Steve Buccellato said...

Welcome to the club!

Too bad about the Saudi trip. That is an awful lot of hoops to jump through--to see nothing!

This week, I've been dreamily looking over the Adventure Center catalog. There are many more "family" adventures available than in the past. I'd love to take the family on the "Pharaohs and Feluccas" tour sometime. Maybe when the kid is 8 or older. The "Crusaders, Petra & Pyramids" tour looks great too. Very similar to the trip I took in 2000, but without Turkey & Syria.

I'm not sure Syria is a great place to bring the family these days, anyhow! Actually, I'm pretty sure it's not! Wouldn't it be nice, though? (Can't we all just get along?)


Marie Javins said...

Come on over, I'll show you pharaohs and feluccas. Or course, we might need to take the entire office along to translate.

I think Syria would be a great place to take a kid when he's a little older. Like when he starts hearing news and understanding what it is. Then you can show him firsthand that the news means one thing, but one-on-one, people are just plain old people.

Though for my money, it's the safari trips for families that are not to be missed. Nothing like a kid's enthusiasm to get you back on track after you have seen your 3 millionth giraffe and totally lost interest.


And suddenly that three millionth and first giraffe looks cool.

David Wohl said...

I can't wait until Jonathan's 7th birthday, when I can take him great white shark watching off the Farralon Islands.

I bet if I told him about the Nile crocodiles he'd want to go to Egypt.