The site noted that visas would not be issued to an Israeli-passport holder, to anyone with an Israeli stamp on a passport, or, just in case things weren’t perfectly clear, to “Jewish people.” There were also “important instructions” for any woman coming to the kingdom on her own, advising that she would need a husband or a male sponsor to pick her up at the airport, and that she would not be allowed to drive a car unless “accompanied by her husband, a male relative, or a driver.” Needless to say, there would be no drinking allowed—Saudi officials even try to enforce no-drinking rules on private jets in Saudi airspace, sometimes sealing the liquor cabinets.
Finally, belying the fact that Arabs consider hospitality a sacred duty, there was the no-loitering kicker: “All visitors to the Kingdom must have a return ticket.” After New York congressman Anthony Weiner kicked up a fuss, the anti-Semitic language on the Web site was removed.
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.
(A hard-line Muslim cleric in Iran recently blamed provocatively dressed women for earthquakes, inspiring the headline SHEIK IT!Millions of Muslims flock to Mecca and Medina annually. Saudi Arabia has long kept not just its women but its very self behind a veil.Robert Lacey, the Jidda-based author of explains that only when revenues from the hajj pilgrims fell drastically, during the Depression, did the Saudis allow infidel American engineers to enter the country and start exploring for oil.The warrior al-Sauds got religious legitimacy; the anhedonic Wahhabis got protection.To this day the Koran is the constitution of Saudi Arabia, and Wahhabism its dominant faith.