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April 16, 2002

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In Saudi Arabia they love Americans, that's why we tell them we’re Canadian. Even that deception doesn’t keep us out of trouble. A matawwa, one of Saudi’s ‘religious police’ (men who patrol the country enforcing religious etiquette), accosts us on the road as we try to enter a cab. This man demands to see our passports, asks about our religious affiliation, and calls over a policeman to detain us while he checks our papers. He’s not happy that Jill wears a veil that covers her face; he suspects she’s trying to impersonate a Muslim. Eventually he leaves as he came, abruptly and without explanation. We continue to explore Riyadh by cab; it’s the only option available to us. Women aren’t allowed to drive cars or ride on public buses.
Scary matawwa. These religious policemen can detain you for days without formal charges. Steer clear of them!
Saudi Arabia blends modern architecture and expensive cars with ultra-conservative religious rules.