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Armed with moxie and a Burqini, Maureen Dowd confronts the limits of Saudi Arabian hospitality, as well as various male enforcers, learning that, as always, it matters whom you know.I wanted to know all about Eve.“Our grandmother Eve?I had visited Saudi Arabia twice before, and knew it was the hardest place on earth for a woman to negotiate.Women traveling on their own have generally needed government minders or permission slips.,” 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.Saudi Arabia is one of the premier pilgrimage sites in the world, outstripping Jerusalem, the Vatican, Angkor Wat, and every other religious destination, except for India’s Kumbh Mela (which attracts as many as 50 million pilgrims every three years).) According to legend, when Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden they went their separate ways, Adam ending up in Mecca and Eve in Jidda, with a single reunion. ) Eve’s cemetery lies behind a weathered green door in Old Jidda.
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.The latticed screens on cantilevered verandas were intended to ensure “the privacy and seclusion of the harem,” as the Lebanese writer Ameen Rihani noted in 1930.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.Now, six years later, the Saudis are trying yet again.