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April 15, 2002

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Carrying an onward flight ticket, a cross-country bus ticket, and a lot of patience, we manage to obtain a Saudi transit visa. Our visa allows us two days to travel across Saudi Arabia. At first glance this short time span seems impossible, but we have a secret plan. Our flight out of Saudi has been moved back by three days (a fact the Saudi embassy doesn’t know), so we will stay an extra three days in Saudi Arabia and use the delayed flight as an excuse. Saudi officials aren’t known for bending rules, yet every illegal immigrant knows that being in a country is halfway to being a citizen. We start our Saudi adventure by crossing the 25-km long land bridge, called the King Fahd Causeway that joins Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. From there we stop in Damman, a city that’s neither modern like other ‘oil cities’ in Arabia nor ancient with a fabled history. In short, nothing interests us in Damman, so we continue on our way to Riyadh by bus. From Riyadh’s bus terminal, we hitch a ride into the city and find a reasonable hotel on al-Batha’a street, the heart of Riyadh’s market district.
Saudi Arabia forbids women to eat while publicly exposed. All restaurants, including this Kentucky Fried Chicken, have 'family areas' where women can eat behind the curtains.
Saudi Arabia also forbids women to travel abroad, even between cities within Saudi Arabia, without their husbands. Other restrictions on women include driving a car, visiting museums, or browsing the Internet (most Internet cafes ban women).