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Note To Self: Cancel Those Riyadh Vacation Plans

Kudos to Michael Slackman for his superb New York Times story today on Saudi Arabian youths (male youths, to be exact). The piece starts with a Tom Friedman-esque anecdote about a young Saudi trying to get a girl's phone number, and the reader is reasonably certain that what follows will be a heartwarming tale about how kids in every culture are basically the same, and how the next generation of liberals will do away with the desert kingdom's oppressive regime.

Alas (for Saudi Arabia, if not the reader), Slackman's story goes in a completely different direction. The story of two cousins and their covert romances, Slackman's piece presents us with two young men who are angry and bitter and virulently misognyist. Here is one of many great anecdotes:

Suddenly, the young men stopped focusing on their food. A woman had entered the restaurant, alone. She was completely draped in a black abaya, her face covered by a black veil, her hair and ears covered by a black cloth pulled tight.

“Look at the batman,” Nader said derisively, snickering.

Enad pretended to toss his burning cigarette at the woman, who by now had been seated at a table. The glaring young men unnerved her, as though her parents had caught her doing something wrong.

“She is alone, without a man,” Enad said, explaining why they were disgusted, not just with her, but with her male relatives, too, wherever they were.

When a man joined her at the table — someone they assumed was her husband — she removed her face veil, which fueled Enad and Nader’s hostility. They continued to make mocking hand gestures and comments until the couple changed tables. Even then, the woman was so flustered she held the cloth self-consciously over her face throughout her meal.

“Thank God our women are at home,” Enad said.

--Isaac Chotiner