Saudi Arabia is an enigma. Although it has an ancient history, the country as it exists has been around only since the break up of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the First World War. The most orthodox of all Islamic states, it is the home to two of the three holiest sites in Islam, and the Saudis take their task as guardians of these sites extremely seriously. The wealth of the Kingdom is built on oil, but although its rulers are fabulously wealthy, and Westerners working there on contract are paid handsomely, there is poverty, even squalor in the country, and this coupled with what most people would regard as repression, is a recipe for revolution.
The programme makers take a trip to Saudi, but their visit is cut short when they think, probably erroneously, their cover has been blown, but better safe than sorry. We are shown a public whipping and even a beheading!
More controversial is the claim that the Saudis are exporters of terrorism, if not entirely by design. Although most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis, terrorism, by whatever definition, is not tolerated here. You will have to make up your own mind about how much truth and how much spin this programme contains, but not all Westerners are unhappy with the Saudis. As one Englishman wrote in 1997:
"Why was it that, within six months of returning to a 'civilised' country, I was threatened at a local bus stop by a gang of youths? Why is it that, as a law abiding citizen, I would fear for my life walking around the back streets of London? Why was it that, when I lived in an 'uncivilised' country for six years, there was not one single occasion when I was remotely threatened by anyone? Why was I able to walk around the back streets of Riyadh without a worry in the world?"
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