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I thought I understood the regime of gender apartheid pretty well.But this cemetery bit took me aback.“Can they go in if they’re dead?Before 9/11, Saudi Arabia was in fact gearing up to welcome, or at least accept, a trickle of non-Muslim visitors, dropping a handkerchief to the world.Crown Prince Abdullah—now the king—was a radical modernizer by Saudi standards. 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.Three years after 9/11, in 2004, the Kingdom decided to give the tourism business another try, this time hiring a public-relations firm to get things rolling.The Web site of the resulting Supreme Commission for Tourism was “a disaster,” one Saudi official abashedly recalls, shaking his head.

It translated into “No f---ing way, lady.”“Women are not allowed to go into cemeteries,” he told me.” asked Abdullah Hejazi, my boyish-looking guide in Old Jidda.Under a glowing Arab moon on a hot winter night, Abdullah was showing off the jewels of his city—charming green, blue, and brown houses built on the Red Sea more than a hundred years ago.Leslie Mc Loughlin, a fellow at the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, led tours to the Kingdom in 20, and both groups included affluent and curious Jewish men and women from New York.But on 9/11 the passageway narrowed again as Saudi Arabia and the United States confronted the reality that Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 terrorist hijackers were Saudi nationals.

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