When in Saudi, you have to get used to the idea that there are certain places you shouldn’t go, depending on whether you are a man or a woman. Of course, there are restricted areas everywhere in the world. Even in North America, I shouldn’t go into the men’s locker room, for instance. But in Saudi, the separation of men and women is everywhere and took some getting used to. You have to be constantly aware of where you can go, which entrance to use, or which line to queue up in. For instance:Here, the “Men Section” is strictly for men; that’s easy enough. However, the “Ladies Section” is not only just for ladies, but could also be used by any men who are accompanied by a female. Heaven forbid that a Saudi woman might actually have to stand next to a strange man at the MacDonald’s! But really – as if that sign dividing the line-ups is going to make a difference here.
or the shopping mall, depending on the time:In the old days, according to camelman, the muttawa (religious police) were quite enthusiastic about enforcing these bachelor admission hours. I have never witnessed the muttawa in action, although I have seen mall security guards turn away or escort unaccompanied males out of the shopping centre. I don’t know too many men who are at their best after half an hour or so in the mall, so it’s just as well, I suppose (I’m kidding).
But for all this effort in keeping the bachelors separated from the women, only men are allowed to work in the mall, including lingerie and cosmetics shops. Can you imagine? There would nothing more peculiar than having to ask a fellow if they have any more of the pink lace push-up bras in size 42C.It’s enough to get anyone in a tizzy!