New York Times columnist and best-selling author Maureen Dowd traveled to Saudi Arabia last year and wrote an article about her travels which appeared in Vanity Fair. She said she couldn't resist taking a trip to Saudi Arabia after hearing the Saudi Tourism Minister, Prince Sulton, announce that he is “slowly making efforts to change by opening their doors to Western Tourists”, albeit only the “high level,” and “fully educated” tourists... "No backpackers", he added.
Dowd wanted to see Saudi Arabia through the eyes of an average Western tourist while checking out if this "modern transformation" Prince Sulton spoke of was noticeable or even perceptible. In her article, she compared the speed at which the Saudi’s want to change “akin to a snail on Ambien”.
Then about a month ago, I met Pamela Davis. She was new to the area and brought her three year-old son to a playgroup I had started for my two year-old son, and for the other young children in the community. The playgroup takes place at a church every Friday morning. I usually know all the moms at playgroup, but Pamela Davis was new.
I introduced myself; I asked her if they’d just moved into the neighborhood. She told me that she and her husband had just bought a house down the street, and they were very happy to be back in the US after spending this past year living and working in Saudi Arabia.
I admit I was incredibly impressed; most of the women I know wouldn't want to go Saudi Arabia for a week let alone move there for an entire year, especially with an eighteen month-old child in tow.
By any standard, Pamela would be considered a beautiful woman. I’d describe her as “actress thin”, with light skin, dirty blonde hair, and blue eyes. Her hair his cut in an updated bob cut (shorter in back, longer in front) which perfectly frames her face. I liked her immediately, I found her approachable and despite her small stature, you could tell she was formidable and possessed a certain toughness.
Her little boy was fortunate to get his mothers features, though his hair was actually so blonde it almost white. I kept thinking the two are so light in tone that they stand out in a roomful of white women and kids in Massachusetts, I can't begin to imagine how they would ‘blend in’ in Saudi Arabia.
When playgroup came to an end, I told Pamela that I’d love to hear more about her time in Saudi Arabia and suggested we get our boys together for a playdate. “Absolutely, that sounds like fun”, she said, and a few days later we found ourselves and our boys in an enormous indoor playground. It was actually the perfect place to go because the boys could run around and storm the bouncy castle; while Pamela and I could actually have a peaceful conversation over hot mocha lattes.
We sat down and relaxed for a moment, caught our breath, agreed that we didn’t need to go to a gym because just wrangling our rambunctious boys was a workout in itself. Then I began asking her questions...