In this country, the king is both the head of state and the government. The king decides what is right and what is wrong after consulting the senior princes of the royal family and the top religious authority. Beyond this upper-hand consultation, there is no public participation. No one can question whatever decision is made. No citizen is free to criticize the king or the royal family.
So, how are Saudi Arabia and the USA friends, considering their leadership principles are sharp contradictions? Well, they are strategic allies, not friends. That is, they are enemies as far as policies are concerned.
No Public Affections
No matter how much you love your partner, do not show it in public. It is a crime to let the public know how romantic you are. No holding hands in public, even if traveling with your spouse. In fact, if you are traveling with your spouse, you have to show the officials the marriage license. So this is another tip: if you are going to Saudi Arabia with your spouse, remember to carry your marriage license. If a male and female are traveling together and they can’t prove what their relationship is about, they will be denied the visa, lest they commit adultery in this holy country.
No Sexual Misconduct
Adultery is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. Neither should you even think of watching pornography, for you can be jailed or be killed or both. If the officials randomly ask for your phone, only to scan it and find porn, you will be deported back to your country. But not before you are flogged in public. That is, if you are lucky. If you are not fortunate, you can be jailed for watching porn even if a foreigner. There is always an organization of volunteers called muttawa that patrol the streets to help the police enforce these codes of morality.
Moreover, bear in mind that pornography includes magazine photos that the muttawa police deem to be inappropriate. So check all the pictures you have on your magazines or your phone gallery. A phone wallpaper picture of you wearing a swimsuit or vest can turn out to be pornography in Saudi Arabia.
In liberal countries, gays can fearlessly come out to demand official recognition. In Saudi Arabia, the LGBTQ community is a voiceless lot. Letting anyone know you are part of that community could be as good as signing your death certificate.
Tough Rules for Women
A young woman is not supposed to travel alone in Saudi Arabia. She must be accompanied by an older woman or a male relative. In most cases, he should be her husband; of course, he should have the marriage license, just in case the police want to know who exactly he is. Until recently, women were not allowed to drive or go to the sports stadiums. That has changed, but they are still not allowed to go to the gym, exercise or sing in public.
Prayer Time Is Prayer Time
There is a 20-30 minutes time for daily prayers. When the loudspeakers announce that time, almost everything is expected to come to a standstill instantly. Businesses are closed at the speed of lightning, and muttawa the religious police can be seen patrolling the streets to arrest anyone who has not gone to the nearest mosque for the prayers. Only hospitals, airports, airplanes in the air and other hard-to-stop affairs continue to operate.
No Night Party
If you are traveling to Saudi Arabia, do not look forward to having great moments at the nightclubs. There are simply no nightclubs, theatres, or cinemas. You can manage to find a private daytime party, but remember to dance conservatively. They’ll let you know how conservatives dance. No wild dances and make sure you go home early.
The Religion Is Only Islam
Whether you are a Muslim or not, you are expected to obey the Sharia laws. However, if you belong to another religion, you are free to worship but do so secretly or privately. You can read your bible, but away from the public eye. Do not preach Jesus in public or in private.
If you can persevere through these laws, so much fun awaits you in Saudi Arabia. There is the Nabatean rock city of Madain Saleh; there is Mecca, diving, houses hewed from corals, a walk through the stunning desserts and trekking the mountains.