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But this cemetery bit took me aback.“Can they go in if they’re dead?,” I asked.“Women can be buried there,” he conceded, “but you are not allowed to go in and look into it.”So I can only see a dead woman if I’m a dead woman? It’s the most bewitching, bewildering, beheading vacation spot you’ll never vacation in.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.The houses, empty now, are stretched tall to capture the sea breeze on streets squeezed narrow to capture the shade.It translated into “No f---ing way, lady.”“Women are not allowed to go into cemeteries,” he told me.I had visited Saudi Arabia twice before, and knew it was the hardest place on earth for a woman to negotiate.
He wanted to encourage more outside contact and to project an image other than one of religious austerity (with bursts of terrorism).
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.
Before 9/11, Saudi Arabia was in fact gearing up to welcome, or at least accept, a trickle of non-Muslim visitors, dropping a handkerchief to the world.
A group of traditional Saudi women, skeptical of any sort of liberalization, recently started an organization called My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me.
I thought I understood the regime of gender apartheid pretty well.