The Camel Hunt: Everyone Was Real Nice
During my first full day in Saudi Arabia I went looking for wild camels. I bought some apples to feed to the camels and made sure to bring the camera in case I was able to get a good Kodak-moment. I was unable to locate any roaming camels but I did find the Riyadh camel suq (market) while managing to drive for hours in the desert. During the hours in the desert I encountered several people, some who did and some who did not speak English. Everyone who I met was extremely kind to me. Everyone greeted me with the standard Islamic greeting "Assalamu Alikum." This was somewhat of a surprise as most orthodox schools of thought forbid the Asslamu Alikum greeting to Christians and other non-Muslims. No one in Iraq or Qatar has ever greeted me with Asslamu Alikum yet everyone in Saudi Arabia did.
Jeddah: Pro-Liberty, Pro-Woman
After the Al Baik adventure I was ready for bed. Peter, the "eight piece" friend, and me caught a taxi back to hotel. The taxi cab driver was in a fantastic mood, talking a mile a minute, and using his broken English skills to tell us about how "all Jeddah loves freedom."
The People versus the Religious Police (as told to me by the taxi cab driver and remembered by me): A female guest worker was doing gardening work. Apparently, too much of her hair was showing and a religious policeman took notice. According to the taxi cab driver, the religious police man went up to the woman and wacked her on the leg (I can vouch that this is standard practice by religious police to dress code violations). Other female guest workers saw this and jumped on the religious policeman. Other people, both men and women, walking nearby then got involved by joining in the anti-religious policeman beatdown.
Anti-religious policeman violence does happen in Jeddah. Some Hijazis still feel like they are occupied by Riyadh-based backwards, fundamentalist tribesmen.
My time in Saudi Arabia ended after a week. I did not come down with a case of Orientalism but instead had my eyes open by the materially wealthy Qatar and the personally friendly but organizationally hostile Saudi Arabia. All I can hope is that all my future travels be as much of a learning experience as was my Middle East 2010 trip.