Saudi Arabia - A Western Tourists Mecca?
Washington, DC. May 14th, 2006 ---- You have got to be joking!. Saudi Arabia wants to encourage western tourists to visit them?
Over the years I have met numerous business men, and tourists who have been cruelly beaten by the notorious Religious Police for asking directions, or even innocently allowing a female friend to ride alone to the shops. In the Gulf War I was of mixed minds regarding neighbor Kuwait, which was another despotic time capsule not worthy of westerners losing there lives to protect. But the USA and the West needed their oil.
Saudi Arabia is a backward, despotic medieval hell hole, with huge riches and Oil. That is why the big US travel industry companies will roll over, accept their advertising and promotional dollars, and promote Saudi Arabia as a beautiful place to visit. The many cruel beatings will be, as they are now, hushed up and swept under the carpet.
The Middle East is realizing the importance of tourism, especially eyeing the Chinese outbound market. They see both political and economic benefits ahead. Unfortunately another Saudi Prince will see erosion of intolerance and send in the baton swinging Clowns.
I enjoyed every visit to Dubai, and the Emirates were always welcoming. If an unsuspecting western tourist hadn't been briefed by their "Travel Consultant" they were given the benefit of the doubt, and told of Muslim traditions. In Saudi Arabia they would have been beaten, thrown in jail, beaten again and deported. Of course there would have been silence from the Oil Office, sorry I meant Embassy.
The geopolitical forces do not bode well for the House of Saud and, if genuine, the desire to portray a gentler, more tolerant country to those who seek to defend the oilfields is a good strategy. It is no accident that Iran is developing a tourism strategy at the same time and here in DC the benefits of the region are being pitched to anyone who will listen.
Saudi Arabia is looking to create two new airlines, employng 50,000 to expand their inroads into travel and tourism. That has been received with serious concerns here in DC, with the identities of the 9/11 hijackers, and partially trained pilots fresh on every ones minds.
The derailing forces to this plan will be the Sh'ia, whose new found influence is spreading through Iraq, Iran of course, and now across the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The Oil fields. Thanks to the chaotic mess created by the mismanagement of Iraq by the Bush Administration, Sh'ia clerics are moving into positions of regional power. By sheer numbers they will influence the economic future of the whole Middle East.
If Saudi Arabia is seeking a whole new image, then their dreams must be applauded. If it is merely just another PR campaign to prop up the House of Saud, then let the visitor beware. For the notorious Religious Police do not read the News Releases, and you know what, they don't care either.