Wild Dreams

When you live here long enough, you become so accustomed to the absurdities of life in the magic kingdom that nothing can surprise you anymore, and you can come across the oddest of news stories without a flinch. Some recent examples…

Saudi Gazette says that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MIA) has held a closed door meeting in Riyadh for “interpreters of dreams and visions.” As if it is not enough that our government has been trying to tell you who you can (or can’t) marry, now they are trying to tell you how you should interpret your dreams.

We have no constitution or written laws; our human rights record is dismal and corruption is becoming a common practice in the public sector, yet here is our government holding a closed door meeting to help us interpret our dreams. How about helping people to actually make their dreams come true? Oh, sorry, I guess that’s not on your busy agenda.

Speaking of dreams, a paper presented at the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market held in Riyadh said the country’s expanding tourism sector will provide 900,000 new jobs for young Saudi men and women by 2020. No disrespect to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), but this seriously wild dream calls for some extensive interpretation by the MIA people mentioned above.

What tourism are they talking about?

I have a suggestion for SCTA. Before embarking on your unrealistically huge ambition of making Saudi Arabia a tourist destination and invite millions to come, you, as well as many other government departments, may want to try make life more tolerable for those of us living here. I’m not talking about the enormous megaprojects you like to brag about so often (economic cities, techno valley, blah blah blah).

What I’m talking about is much more simple. Basics, really. People should able to meet freely in public without fear of being prosecuted. Organizing cultural and artistic events should not be a state security matter. Also, have you ever heard of public transportation? Yeah, we don’t have this.

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57 thoughts on “Wild Dreams

  1. i dont think its so ridiculous.. i would love to travel the region and am much more fascinated with the desert landscape than with a mid east vegas..

    but its interesting about the laws and the constitution – something that i guess i have never thought about much – wow – thats something else..

  2. “… They want to compete against Dubai.

    DUBAI

    The only response possible is laughter”

    To compete against Duabai, it means you would have to bring bus loads of prostitute into the country….No thanks we can live without it. Plus look what is happening in Dubai now, finally the bubble has burst.

  3. ”But this seriously wild dream calls for some extensive interpretation by the MIA people ”
    ROTFL!!!!

    I’m sorry you are not happy but reading your blog is só fascinating! This could be straight from Harry Potter: The ministry of Dreams! :D

  4. I’m wondering would be able an ipotetical female tourist to go on a Saudi beach in bikini, would be able a tourist to drink alcool without fear or to pray in a church? I don’t think so….as stated in the post first of all basic human rights and then tourism…I mean as a western woman I drive but if I would go to Saudi I wouldn’t be allow to drive or the mind behind this dream think to have a double standard….you are a tourist you can drive….you are a citizen you can’t.

    I’m wondering maybe they were thinking about religious turism?

  5. It’s a bit difficult to start up a tourist-trade if you won’t allow people into the country, otherwise I could imagine many great destinations which people from all over the world would love to see. And there’s no need to do it the Dubai way: One could learn from other people’s mistakes and start up tourism in an envirnmentally friendly way, and aim for the adventurous and intelligent tourists rather than the stinking rich stupid vapid beach-whales.
    They’d attract a very different and much better class of people.

    But really I think some overly-wasta-endowed people needed some plush jobs; so the ”imaginary-Saudi-travel-and-tourism-fantasm” has been created to provide those.

  6. You surly understand my dear Ahmed the influence those interpreters of dreams have on our society, and the harm they could cause by manipulating people. (MIA) addressed this issue out of necessity. It is part of their job. As you know (MIA) has nothing to do with state security or public services 
    More than 80% of our society are conservatives who believe in keeping this country “pure” and the government has to comply and make sure that cultural and artistic events are regulated to avoid any problems.
    Public gathering seems to be your aim. You keep bringing it up all the time. Innocent gatherings are monitored for law and order. Fear of prosecution comes into play in case of wrong doing. People gather everyday without such fear. Political gatherings are forbidden by the same law you claim doesn’t exist.
    We do have a lot of problems that are hampering our progress. The leadership is trying to tackle them head-on. Take an objective look around you and you’ll see that we made a lot of progress in many areas. Still a long way to go from what we aspire to, but it is progress never the less.
    Public services need a fast and decisive move by the government as you’ve mentioned in your article. Not just transportation, but all utilities, and other services.
    We’ve always had corruption as you mentioned in your Blog. But to be fair, it is much less than a year ago. And a million times better than ten years ago. If you encounter it, report it, and you’ll see the system of fighting it in motion. We are far from perfect, far from eradicating corruption. But we’re not standing still.

  7. Seriously, when will this end?..
    Why do we focus on The most Rideculouse things?
    I mean, We never have festivals, or places for the LOCALS to go to and have fun and enjoy their time!!…The way I see it, I think they should take care of the society and THEN Deal with Tourism..

  8. SaudiAspire:

    You state, regarding corruption: “But to be fair, it is much less than a year ago.”

    Have the statistics for either judicially prosecuted or imputed levels of corruption ever been released by our government?

    Have any credible and statistically valid surveys of corruption and other malfeasance ever been conducted?

    It is difficult to understand a quantitative claim such as yours in the absence of such data.

    If indeed the numbers of such acts are decreasing, it would be important to have a neutral and factual basis on which to judge that.

    Groups that follow this [www.transparency.org] do not seem to place us within the most corruption free societies.

    And this in a society which our clerics assert is guided solely by divine law!

    Tourism to our country, forsooth!

    It would only interest those who take pleasure in the extremes — those who would fancy a tourist trip to North Korea, etc.

    We must make our country friendly and accommodating to all its residents, and tolerant of cultural and religious differences before we seriously entertain the notion of tourist from such different places.

  9. I actually have a lot of friends who are very curious about my life in Saudi Arabia and many of them have asked me if they could come and visit..but yes, they need proper public transport systems in place,aside from all the other obvious things.but i see a lot more Saptco buses than usual these days…
    @Aafke “This could be straight from Harry Potter: The ministry of Dreams!” lol you never know.they might just make one

  10. Brother Ahmed, and one more thing, we need something like the Two Places you talked about in one of your earlier posts, SIMPLY, WE WANT TO FEEL LIKE BELONGING TO THE “HUMANITY” SPOT!

  11. I do not understand what they understand by opening to tourism. I am a single woman that have travelled around the world. As far as I know, now I wouldn’t be able to enter to KSA. So if they open to tourism, can I travel alone and visit the country alone as I do in the rest of the world? If it’s like this, great, I shall be one of the first tourist because I think is a great country. But I do not think that’s what they have in mind. Are they ready for the shock opening a so closed country to the rest? Noisy families with woman dressed it he occidental way, looking at the eyes to man when speaking?….mmmhh don’t see it.

    Abut the comment of persona non grata, just want to say that I was in Dubai 2 weeks ago and didn’t see prostitutes, maybe because I’m a woman and I’m not looking to find one, I do not know. But I can tell you that some arab man have real problems in their minds as they equal westerns with prostitutes. As I’ve said I travel alone,( I live alone since I finished university, and always lived alone), and in Dubai I had some weird experiences with 3 arab man, 2 egiptians and a jordan. 2 of them where my tour guides. As they saw I was alone, tried to hook up with me, asking for my phone and room number. How disgusting! And the 3rd one, a married man travelling with his wife, the same, and his case is for me even worst. Just because I’m a western travelling alone? C’mon. And they asked me why I was resisting them..hahah. They asked me if I was arab, and I answer that christians are properly raised too. But in favour of arab man, I’ve to say those were the only ones that approached me this way, the rest I’ve met in other trips, or even in Dubai, natural situations, have been really polite, like I expext of any man wherever he is from, skin colour or religion.
    But that says something about what’s going on on some men minds. Ready for tourists…uhuh I doubt it… maybe should open minds before…and as other opinion reflects, maybe a wise investment would be doing things step by step, as that’s a huge change, improving citizens lives, public transportation, opening minds (rules…) and finally opening the country without any need to lose own personality and pride.

  12. Persona_non_grata:

    I would note that prostitution takes many forms. In its essentials, prostitution is the exchange of material resources for sex.

    Such exchanges do occur in our country.

    Such exchanges may be cloaked as “spouses” or as domestic servants, yet they nevertheless exist.

    As to the rate or level of such exchanges, a problem is that neither country collects or publishes meaningful data on this subject, making comparisons impossible.

    I am fascinated by the fact that opponents of tourism often bring up the notion that licentiousness would prevail.

    I would assert that in our conservative society, it is extremely unlikely that we would become debauched.

    However, it is noteworthy that many believe that notwithstanding our imposed levels of piety and religious observance, that such piety is in fact not truly held.

    It is a point to consider — to what extent are we as a society as doctrinally pious as our outward forms would imply?

  13. They interpret those employed in the Hajj industry Ahmed– that’s where those figures come in! most people responding on the blog have limited their thought to that of traditional tourism. We need to remember that we have millions of visitors passing through our borders every year- and that’s more than Dubai can dream of! not that I think we should go down the same route.

  14. Saudi Aspire is trying to tell us that we should be greatful for living in the magic kngdom. This is the typical response we get from people benifited from the system who can enjoy all the money here and have “Wasta” every where.
    For us ordinary people we can eat, sleep and thanks god dream of better life.

  15. The only magic kingdom I know of is in Disney world.
    Mohammed you sound just like the Israelis claiming anti Semitism every time somebody open their mouth.
    You have a valid argument or comment go ahead and state it. Otherwise respect others and don’t resort to insults please!
    Look at the third world around you and you’ll know that all Saudi are benefiting from the system. You’ll only appreciate this fact after you lose it.
    We are far from where we want to be, and things could be a million times better. But we should appreciate where we are today, and try to improve things without losing site and ignoring the positive.

  16. SaudiAspire:

    You state that “all Saudi are benefiting from the system”

    I would welcome access to the statistics from our government on household welfare, household wealth, mental health and physical mortality and morbidity for all Saudi households, with stratificaton by income.

    I am unaware that anything like such quality statistical data sets have ever been produced for our nation.

    In the absence of such data, it would seem to be difficult to make such an assertion about all Saudis.

    And, we must not neglect, when examining your assertion of “benefit from the system” the economic costs of a system that serves to encourage youth emigration, diminishes labour productivity, etc.

    I am unaware that anyone has ever been permitted to collect and create the basic data sets necessary to analytically examine such costs.

    As with many things, the absence of data makes it easy to formulate non-factually based assertions about our system.

    However, the absence of data also makes it impossible to substantiate any such assertions.

  17. Linguist, @

    Incase you haven’t been around the area lately; allow me to rehash things for you, what is happening in Dubai now? Let us see, well they have artificial islands that are very much deserted, and they don’t seem to be any new buyers, their infamous construction boom is running out of steam, many new projects had to be either postponed, or cancelled all together. One of their biggest real estate company had to lay off over 500 people, they had to issue government bonds to infuse much needed capital into the economy, need I go on any further, and yes one more things let us not forget the bad press they been getting on the concentration (labor) camp, and their treatment of their manual labor.

    @ puca,

    I don’t think Arab men equate westerner with prostitutes, and as far as why you haven’t seen prostitutes in the streets, that’s because they have moved indoor, night clubs and certain area of the city where open solicitation is the norm. Dubai has built its reputation as a tourist attraction from its early days, because of the sex industry. The funny thing two British gents in my company prefer to spend their vacation in Dubai, than their home country because of the variety of prostitutes they can get in Dubai (their words).

    @ Andrew,

    There is no way you can compare isolated incidents of prostitution in Saudi Arabia, with what goes on in Dubai. And to have the local government tacitly approve the whole thing is just outrageous.

  18. Salaam my brother Ahmed Al-Omran,

    My name is Mohammad Hosein, from Iran. At the moment, I’m doing my post graduate in Malaysia.
    I found the link to your blog somewhere in BBC. For me, Saudi is a special country in the Arab world. So it has been always interesting for me to know more about it and finding blogs from Saudi’s people.
    The thing that mostly grabbed my attention was what I found after I searched your posts for “IRAN”; that you mentioned Qom as “Holy City of Qom”; and that you are from the famous minority population of Saudi :)

    I would like to express my warm congratulation on having such this blog and the best wishes for you from Allah (s.w.t)

    وفقک الله ان شاء الله

  19. persona_non_grata, As far as prostitutuion goes, that trade is probably blooming in Dubai thanks to all the Saudi customers.

    And if you think there’s no prostitution in KSA you are living a very sheltered life.

    And let’s not forget the ”legal” Saudi form of prostitution called Misyaar marriage!!!!

  20. UAE people are our brothers and sisters. We have to rise above this useless argument and elevate this forum to it’s rightful place. Please forgive me if I have contributed to whatever is happening here now.

  21. Just out of curiosity, what does Saudi spend it’s billions on? I’m sure they can spare a bit on public transport.

    And I’m also curious as to why they’d want to copy Dubai – a city that emulated all the bad things about the West, whilst ignoring all the good things. The way they treat South Asian migrants is atrocious.

  22. Aafke,

    Let us not forget the British, and other European who are keeping the trade alive, and well. Bashing Saudi Arabia has become your Mode of Operation has not Aafake,

    And no I don’t live a sheltered life, what I wrote is that you can’t compare anything that goes on in Dubai with Saudi Arabia. I think i would know since I live here. Next you gona tell me is that there are no Dutch prostitutes !!

    And as far as Misyar marriage is concern, whether you like it or not, it is a real marriages that meet all standard marriage requirements.

    @ SaudiAspire,

    No one is knocking UAE people down, just pointing out the situation in Dubai

  23. Of course a holiday industri create prostitution, but it’s only a small part of the turism. The main group of turist is families with children ( and looking ahead in the future older people + 60).
    Prostitution is in fact a very small part of turism ( even in a country as Thailand).
    If Saudia Arabia’s opinion is that they can afford not to engage in turist industri by me ( and you do have the Hajj, don’t you, it’s really turism ?), but at the moment more than 20% in Saudia lives beneath the poverty line. Turism is an relative easy way to create jobs, because a lot of the jobs don’t demand that much education. But it’s also clear that turism changes society.
    But You shuoldn’t compare with Dubai, look at Moroco.

  24. Just out of curiosity….how much religious tourism is worth in Saudi, I know that a muslim should go one in his life to visit holy cities in Saudi but those visitor brings money? I mean when a christian goes to visit Vatican city, Lourdes or Gerusalem he /she will spend money in restaurants, tacky souvenirs (glowing Madonnas or whatever), Hotels there’s something similar in Saudi? By the little I know about Saudi so far religious turism is the only avaible right now IMHO

  25. Persona-non-grata, that is exactely what I said, thanks for agreeing with me.
    Misyaar marriage is legalised prostitution, it’s nothing else but sex for payment. No duties for the men, no security for the women.
    It burdens the woman with all the duties of marriage, while taking away all the advantages a real marriage gives.
    As stipulated in the Quran.
    Misyaar marriage circumvents the Quran and while it may be legal, it’s certainly not Islamic.

  26. Persona_non_grata:

    You assert that there are only “isolated incidents of prostitution in Saudi Arabia”.

    I would welcome access to any valid set of statistical data regarding the incidence of prostitution here.

    Moreover, I would note again that prostitution is generally regarded as the exchange of material resources for sex.

    Based on that, there are indeed a variety of practices that do in fact occur here that are prostitution, including at times misyaar marriage (does anyone have a translation into English?).

    Of course, such statistics are also unavailable for Dubai.

    The absence of data makes any assertions regarding the incidence rate of a phenomenon inherently unreliable and subject to high degrees of error.

    Moreover, many would like to define prostitution very narrowly — only the types of activity that occurs in the streets of Moscow, Bangkok, etc. — rather than understanding prostitution as an exchange of material resources for sex.

    However, I would again repeat the point that it is fascinatingly bizarre that when we consider potential tourism, among the first thoughts that arise is that we will somehow become overwhelmed with prostitution.

    It suggests something disturbing about our fears, pattern of thinking and perhaps obsessions.

    It is extremely unlikely that our very conservative society would become debauched.

  27. At the moment, the muslim world in general is faced with a choice: Continue with this 11th century phantasm in anachronistic states and keep falling even further behind or change and finally join the rest of us in the 21st century.

  28. Andrew,

    I was not implying that Tourism will bring about prostitution into the country; if I did then that was not my intention. I’m all for the tourism trade, and opening up the country to the outside world there are a lot of outside investment that can be brought in the country and many jobs can be generated if they do this right.

    The prostitution part was just a side note when Dubai was mentioned and how Dubai thrived as a tourist destination because of it. Come on, anyone who have visited Dubai 8 or 10 years ago would have seen Russian prostitutes all over the streets of offering their goods by street lights, and negotiating their price, it just an uneasy feeling witnessing that.

    Aafake,

    I think you are confusing Misyar marriage to muta’a (pleasure) marriage which a lot of the Shiite community prescribes to. Did you ever think that some of these women actually opt for this kind of marriage, where the women themselves don’t have, or don’t want the added responsibility of a full time husband. They want a husband to come for conjugal visit on certain nights of the week, the rest of the time she can devote to her kids (if she have any), or to her career. And it is all under her own terms.

  29. Hello Broke Saudi (from a nearly broke American).

    One wonders when the powers that be will realize that economic growth is very difficult given the strait-jackets that exist in all levels of Saudi society. One can have modesty without extreme sex-segregation (just look at all the businesses run in the US by very strict Orthodox Jews – they won’t shake a woman’s hand but they’ll do business with her). So much effort is spent on keeping people apart one wonders that anything gets done.

    The great oil wealth has actually helped keep the society from adapting. The Saudi culture seems to be a very rural and isolated culture (and nothing is wrong with that), but Saudi is no longer a rural and isolated country.

  30. 900.000 jobs…in Spain an elegible president that finally won, promised to create 800.000, the magical number already used twice to win elections. But never accomplished by the winners C’mon if it was that easy to create them, why no one did it before?

    Persona non grata, ok if they are indoors I don’t say anything, I do not know about that, I said I did not see them because in some other countries you can see them, even when is not that obvious they are, you know those high profile ones..but you realize they are.

    Anyway I’ve never understood why anyone needs that.

    I agree with Jerry M statement.

  31. Persona_non_grata:

    Accepting as I do that what you say about misyar marriage may be true in some cases, I hope that you will concede that there are certainly also circumstances in which it is nothing more than the exchange of material resources for sex.

    Such an exchange can fairly be characterised as prostitution.

    And, because it is too often the case in our society that women are disproportionately disadvantaged and extremely unequal when compared with men, such an exchange between two people with very disparate levels of power has a theme of exploitation within it.

    Do you have a good English translation of misyar marriage?

    My dictionary suggests peregrinaceous marriage.

    Is that comprehensible to the anglophones?

  32. Peregrinaceous looks like it shares the same root word as peregrinate.

    “Peregrinate” is another word for “wandering” or “traveling”.

    … I don’t know if your dictionary is quite right, unless we take it to mean that such a marriage travels a lot. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

    In which case, we might as well call it a contractual prostitution situation. The dictionary didn’t help

  33. Andrew: “However, I would again repeat the point that it is fascinatingly bizarre that when we consider potential tourism, among the first thoughts that arise is that we will somehow become overwhelmed with prostitution.

    It suggests something disturbing about our fears, pattern of thinking and perhaps obsessions.”
    ————

    Well, what is there to SEE? As Ahmed has linked, there are no proper museums, no proper malls, no proper zoos, amusement parks, just a whole lot of nothing.

    Beaches… only nobody can go swimming.

    And there are only so many times a person can watch camel racing in Riyadh before getting bored. For outsiders, first time’s interesting, second time… Not so much. (They don’t go as fast as horses and everybody in the world would rather watch horses)

    Cuisine tours? … France has the world beat for that.

    Archeological monuments?… People would stop at Egypt’s Giza pyramids and not venture further into Saudi Arabia; what can compare to those?

    And that is not even mentioning the lack of transportation for potential visitors to get from one non-existent attraction to another.

    For somebody who has no family to visit and no religious reasons to visit either, Saudi Arabia isn’t a destination at all.

    Just typing that up is depressing, actually. I’m sure there are pretty landscapes, the light during sunrise and sunset must be special, but in between those free natural spectacles, what is there for a stranger to do?

    A person just CAN’T day in and day out, it’s just a lot of CAN’T.

    Why spend money to travel to a place where there’s so much CAN’T?

  34. Norvegica:

    I have previously noted that tourism to our country would only interest those who take pleasure in the extremes — those who would fancy a tourist trip to North Korea, etc.

    We must take steps to make our country more pleasant for ourselves — its citizens and residents.

    Once we succeed at that, we will be of greater interest to tourists.

    I would, though, disagree about camels. Camels are a matter of individual preferences.

    Inasmuch as camels evolved to live in our deserts, and horses are not indigenous to the desert, i believe camels to be more authentic and desirable than horses for our country.

    If one comes or lives in our desert, one should accept our natural environment as it is.

    The desert can be quite beautiful.

    We should not try to become the grassland regions in which horses originated.

  35. Overall, it just looks like Egypt, Turkey, and possibly Morocco has the tourism-that-isn’t-about-megashopping locked when it comes to being able to generate tons of tourist interest into a Muslim country.

    Incidentally, those three don’t have such stringent day to day restriction on the lives of their own citizens.

  36. Norvegica

    I think you forgot to add Iran. It has old monuments (persepolis) , museums, beautiful palaces. It has scenery, forests, mountains, trails and so on and so forth. Unfortunately it has one common thing with Saudi Arabia – there are restrictions. Otherwise it would be a great tourist country.

    andrew

    Camels spit.
    Desert is too cold at night and too hot during day…….give me a forest any time.

  37. Having just returned to Australia after living in KSA for a number of years, I have to say that a successful tourist industry is a pipe dream at best. Aside from the obvious difficulties with opening up such a conservative culture, there are many, many practical and as yet unaddressed issues. Such simple things as toilets. We went to a significant natural landmark and the only toilet there was a single, locked squatter used by the workmen at the site. And we had to drive miles for a drink and something to eat. There is no transport to speak of, and yes, there are the SAPTCO buses, but what tourist wants to sit on a bus with a group of foreign workers on their way home? What about photography? Wherever we went, we were always told to put our camera away, no matter what it was pointed at. And in the evening, what do you do after you’ve had a pleasant dinner minus the bottle of wine? You shop, or you shop, or you shop. How does a tourist find out about the underground cultural events like concerts and plays that are held by expat groups? Or should they? What else would they do? And how does a tourist participate in the rare cultural events that the kingdom holds when your husband has to go on one day and you on another? And what about sitting on the footpath while whatever place you are in closes for prayer? Its pretty undignified. And how do you get every foreign female tourist to don an abaya? And is it appropriate to ask every tourist for proof of marriage before issuing a visa? And what about all the closet extremists who can cope for now, but who every now and then surface and take shots at foreigners, killing people on a regular basis (remember the French party recently?) How will they cope with increasing numbers of infidel tourists? And how difficult is it, as a woman, to take advantage of all the Red Sea coast has to offer? And need I even mention the lack of amenities on the side of the road along any freeway in the country…..yuch! Before they create any jobs, KSA will have to take a long, hard look at what sort of tourists they want, and how to provide the infrastructure. The important word here is BEFORE. But I wish them well and will be following their progress with interest.

  38. Saudi Arabia is full of people with to much free time. There is thing that should be address as priority. example

    Give the permission to Saudi man and women who wish to marry non Saudi foreigners. This is one extremely important issue, most of the Saudi Girls who married a non Saudi she need to move out of the country even worse if she have children her children will not admitted in the kingdom. that is sick

    also some Saudi man stay out of KSA for the same reason. Saudi bureaucracy can not identify that every day hundreds of couple get divorce across the country because the cousin is not the man or woman that the originally want to marry in the first place.

    Saudi woman is also another important issue in the KSA she should b able to drive, to do the shopping for home, to pay the bills in the bank, to collect the children from the school,also they should created more family centre where woman can go and play some sport, play some instrument, do some art, the Saudi woman is a top important case, KSA should generate more jobs for woman with equal payments right.

    in other word KSA need basic human right, clean all the ministries and put young talented people with real education. no to the corruption.

    But the most important is the people who need to start making the change themselves.

    QURAN 13:11

    Shifts (of angels) take turns, staying with each one of you – they are in front of you and behind you. They stay with you, and guard you in accordance with GOD’s commands. Thus, GOD does not change the condition of any people unless they themselves make the decision to change. If GOD wills any hardship for any people, no force can stop it. For they have none beside Him as Lord and Master.

    IT IS TIME TO CHANGE FOR BETTER FUTURE

  39. This reminds me of Cuba- there is a Cuba for the Cubans and a Cuba for the tourists and not to be mingled.

    The MIA (Missing in Attention) can’t truly believe that with all the social issues needing attention that Tourism should take on top listing in their particular short list.

    And Interpreting our Dreams!?@ Well their goes the Ministry of Dreams for sure…they will next think of a new role for the Haya and that will be to see if our dreams correspond to proper behavior in KSA- the nerve!

  40. You are so right, INAL, just wait… I’m writing up on it right now!
    But you shouldn’t have used those words, now the loony troll will be after your blog as well!

  41. Coming right over…and let them try! There is a Dominican idiom -“Maria Punales-Se me salen los platanos!”- gist- hair pulling of the bearded kind would be a walk in the park!

  42. Ahhh Ahmed, you raise many issues… but let me touch on the issue of tourism.

    Tourism needs infrastructure, the people need to be educated in hospitality, and the rest of the population needs to be made aware of tourism and its benefits to the country, all of which can be done, but who exactly will do it? and who will clean up the desert from the waste that is left by campers? and who and who and who… etc. Its not just one thing…

    My friends from the south tell me that once people began to go to Abha for the cool weather in the summer, people began to raise prices on rental apartments, that it was much cheaper to go to a foreign country and spend more time there in comparison to what they needed to pay in Abha.

  43. Interesting comments following the post and its rather weird to see how some of them are comparing the largest country in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia to Dubai, a city not bigger than half of Riyadh.

    In response to those who say that tourists will not be able to drink/women cant drive/they cant wear a bikini/they cant go to a church/etc, DON’T come to Saudi Arabia if you are intending to do any of those things. These are the laws of the country, if they cannot follow it, no one is forcing them to visit the Kingdom.

    Why do the Americans go to Britain and drive on the left side of the road (or vice versa)? Because its the law of that country. But that wont stop anyone from visiting that place.

    I know thats a rather stupid example :-P, but it all makes sense when you put it on a wider perspective.

    Saudi Arabia has got its own natural beauty like Madain Saleh, the Empty Quarter etc which has been chosen as World Heritage sites and this alone can make it attractive enough without alcohol/prostis.

  44. I couldn’t agree more with your post, Ahmed… Basic life is made so difficult here, with so many obvious things missing … that you need to leave the country every few months to get a breath of fresh air so you can come back and keep it up … ‘counter-tourism’, or something like that… I wonder if they could get those figures.

    Keep fighting the good fight :)

  45. “Why do the Americans go to Britain and drive on the left side of the road (or vice versa)? Because its the law of that country. But that wont stop anyone from visiting that place.”

    Did you just seriously compare driving on the other side of the road with one whole gender not being able to drive at all as a minor inconvenience to tourists?

    Driving the wrong way on a road results in… death by collision.

    Forbidding women from driving means… no woman bothering to visit at all because there are other countries in this world that don’t think having a vagina makes them unable to use a steering wheel, brakes, and turn signals.

    And that’s not even taking into account teenage Saudi guys who go around drifting and risking the lives of every other person on the road.

    No, actually, it doesn’t make sense when you use a wider perspective. When you use a wider perspective, again, one returns to the premise that this announcement of job increases from tourism is a joke. And we’re not quite sure we should be laughing because it’s so absurd.

  46. HishMaj:

    I believe that you have erred.

    I would first say that it is a false choice to say that either we can have tourism to our country or we can permit “alcohol/prostis”

    One need not agree to such activities in order to accommodate tourism.

    Moreover, your point that tourism must accommodate itself to national laws is true but beside the point.

    I presume that the idea of opening ourselves to tourism is to actually encourage tourism, rather than to simply grudgingly bear it with disdain.

    If we are to encourage tourism, we must make life pleasant for ourselves first.

    My mother and sisters over the years have endured many indignities from the religious police for slight differences in outerwear etc.

    The spectre of humiliation, to which we each internally accommodate ourselves, is a way in which our lives are unpleasant and would be viewed as unacceptable by outsiders.

    We also have generally poor or inadequate accommodations in many areas, especially areas which would be most favourable to tourism. Is one to argue that our laws require poor sanitary facilities and poor and often discourteous assistance from those who are supposedly there to serve the public?

    I understand your point to essentially be that we are as we are, and thus we will remain.

    If I have understood incorrectly, let me apologize.

  47. Just returned from my first ever visit to Turkey, Antalya in case. We stayed at a very nice hotel, not in the primary turist area.The part of Antalya we stayed in could as well have been Grece or Italy regarding the relationship girl/boy and general behavior. But the southern part of Turkey is of course also the most ‘secular’ part of the country. But the turist industry here isn’t more than 20 years old, and there is no doubt that the turist industry has played a enormous part in the dynamism of the turkish society.

  48. Wow this is a hot subject that I couldn’t resist participating! People are misinformed about the Dubai model. I’ve been living here for a long time and consider my self to be very lucky especially that I had lived in SA prior to moving to Dubai. The changes that I have witnessed here are in the right direction and are not excluded to to the development of tourisim and infrustrucure but the way of thinking and principles. E.g Dubai has made a lot of efforts in fighting corruption amongst government officials and even ministers. I guess this is what frightens the Saudi politicians! So they direct all their resources (media and clerks) to fight “the change” cause it brings all sort of evils!! The media here in Dubai addresses problems such as “prostitution” openly and prostitutes don’t hide behind the vail! People are aware about their whereabouts and hence can protect themselves and families.

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