It annoys me to think that I will probably never be able to go to Saudi Arabia unless I marry an Arab. Saudi Arabia is not on my priority list of places to visit, but other than the Levant (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon), it’s the country that calls my attention the most.
Having lived in Dubai for about 8 years, I’m familiar with both the wild and the discreet nature of Arab culture — but I still think Saudi Arabia would blast buttons of culture shock if I ever visited, which is exactly why I’d like to go! I have some local friends in the country; one of them is a DJ and is known to host the hottest underground parties in Jeddah. Basis what is portrayed about the country, I found this unfathomable.
To add to the contradictions of Saudi Arabia: one minute I read that the country has banned red roses for Valentine’s Day, the next I read in Time Magazine that controversial book Girls of Riyadh, is now being allowed free distribution in the country. The book talks about the romantic intrigues of four young girls in one of the most closed societies in the world — it exposes typical intimate family matters including arranged marriages and even sex.
According to the author (Rajaa Alsanea) in Time Magazine: “We have a Minister of Culture who believes that such controversial books should be permitted in the society to allow for a healthy dialog of change by the young generation.” She also says that the Internet has allowed the exchange of communication between youth in Saudi Arabia and has opened a perspective on a world that the older generation has never been exposed to.
I think that government support of this book alongside the other recent development of Saudi Arabia planning to lift the ban on driving for women, are baby steps towards creating a new realm of possibilities for the development of women and the opening of the society in the country.
Maybe one day (in my lifetime!) they will be open enough to allow single women to travel there!?