What it’s like today to travel to Saudi Arabia
Although I have witnessed changes in other nations, I don’t believe I have ever witnessed anything quite like the shift occurring in Saudi Arabia. It is not comparable to the collapse of Soviet Europe or the recent unrest in Sri Lanka. Saudi Arabia has undergone a purposeful, profound, and dramatic transition.
It is challenging to travel to Saudi Arabia without a number of prejudices, assumptions, and preconceived notions influencing what one expects. After all, the nation has spent the last 50 years keeping itself isolated from the outside world, and up until recently, it was extremely impossible for anybody to visit, unless they were undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca for religious reasons.
Women must be completely covered and veiled, there is to be no mixing of the sexes, and there is a strict and unyielding religious police force, as we have all heard. To be honest, I’d be surprised if any Westerners were interested in visiting because the stifling atmosphere makes it difficult to have fun.
Therefore, the choice to send fresh air hurricanes around the nation has completely changed the landscape. Saudi Arabia is spending outrageous amounts of money to build new cities and tourist attractions as part of this transformation, long-term preparation for the post-oil era. Change at breakneck speed is the only constant in Saudi Arabia today.
Going any further without mentioning Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, also known as MBS, who is the driving force behind these moves, would be foolish. Furthermore, no study about MBS is complete without mentioning the uproar he causes.
The reforms in Saudi Arabia were created by MBS. He is accelerating economic modernization and expanding prospects for the populace, but he is also under fire for Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights.
Many claim that his reforms have been selective. Critics claim that there is still very little tolerance for public disagreement despite the fact that he is famous for changing rules to let women to drive.
Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a Saudi dissident journalist, illustrates the following: According to a US intelligence report, MBS was responsible for the murder at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. MBS has steadfastly and repeatedly denied ordering the murder, but has asserted that he is accountable as the Saudi ruler.
I bring this up now because it is the central paradox of Saudi Arabia today: MBS is praised for instituting societal and economic reforms, granting new freedoms to millions of common Saudis, yet there is a dark side to the reforms that offends Western values and hinders full-throated backing.
When visiting Saudi Arabia in July, US President Joe Biden had to strike a balance between his country’s need for oil and its economic might and his need to avoid coming off as overly friendly toward the man whose office of national intelligence claims authorised the execution. Anyone travelling to this magnificent country will experience contradictions in so many different ways.
The bulk of individuals in Saudi Arabia are under 30 (just over 40% are under 25! ), which is a fact that everyone here constantly brings up. The Boulevard serves as the best example of such.
This is a brand-new entertainment area in the city where young women can interact with guys in public and where women can choose to cover their faces or not. (Yes, I am aware that social pressure and tradition might make you do things you don’t want to, but this is about progress, and society advancement is never tidy.)