I wouldn’t rank Saudi Arabia as a premiere tourist destination. I would rank it as one of the more interesting places to visit: if you can. It is a country notorious for being stingy with the tourist visas. Be that as it may, I found myself standing in the Riyadh International Airport with a Siamese under my arm and a stunned look on my face. I was a 16-year-old American girl dealing with teen angst in a foreign land.
Blue-eyed Demon Beast
There are a vast number of things I wish I had known before I landed in Saudi. I wish I had learned at least a little Arabic. There was a great deal of discussion going on around me. I thought that I might either be applauded or arrested and couldn’t tell which. As it turned out, the commotion was about the cat I was toting, or as I learned later, “blue-eyed demon beast.” Bring a phrase book.
Is it me or is it hot in here?
Don’t let anyone tell you different, Saudi Arabia is hot, hot, hot. That country is hot every month of the year. You will not regret planning your wardrobe for unbearable, unrelenting, insufferable heat. If you’re female, you can multiply that by 10, because you must be covered head to toe when in public. It’s true that I had quite a little tragic goth queen vibe at that point in my life. Black suited me. Black absorbs heat. Do the math.
Traffic lines are guidelines.
Women in Muslim countries are fighting for equal rights and one of the things they would like to do is drive themselves. I support that. When I first experienced the Riyadh roadways, I decided I didn’t want to do that. I counted five lanes of Toyota trucks, Mercedes trucks, and sports cars. It was a three lane highway. Be afraid, be very afraid. I recommend hiring a driver for your stay. Wear your seat belts and close your eyes. He’ll let know when you arrive at your destination.
I wish I had know a lot of things when I set off for Saudi Arabia. The thing I wish I had realized the most was what an amazing, fantastical place I was visiting and to have appreciated it more. Blast my teen angst. Take your time, enjoy the open markets and streets literally lined with gold.