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Just the vacation spot for a headstrong, adventure-loving, cocktail-imbibing, fashion-conscious chick.

Long averse to non-Muslim curiosity seekers, the Kingdom is now flirting with tourism, though drinking is forbidden and women can’t drive—or do much of anything—without a man.

He wanted to encourage more outside contact and to project an image other than one of religious austerity (with bursts of terrorism).

The Saudis had already cracked open the door slightly for some degree of cultural tourism.

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.

The royals doubled down on the deal when Islamic fundamentalists took over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, in 1979.

Now, with bin Laden’s attacks, the bargain the royals struck with the fundamentalists—allowing anti-Western clerics and madrassas to flourish and not cracking down on those who bankroll al-Qaeda and terrorism—had borne its poison fruit.

(A hard-line Muslim cleric in Iran recently blamed provocatively dressed women for earthquakes, inspiring the headline SHEIK IT!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.A Saudi woman can’t even report harassment by a man without having a or male guardian, by her side.A group of traditional Saudi women, skeptical of any sort of liberalization, recently started an organization called My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me.” asked Abdullah Hejazi, my boyish-looking guide in Old Jidda.

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