This blog entry is somewhat tongue in cheek. I apologise in advance…
I actually did have to go to Saudi Arabia for work. See, my employer is quite big, and we have a dedicated travel department. All of our travel bookings are done over email or the web though rather than in person or over the phone. And since it’s probably not immediately obvious to anybody reading this blog, I have a PhD. Which means that all of my work related stuff – including travel bookings – has me down as Dr VFF rather than Ms VFF, and as my name is not inherently girly, there is no clear indication that I am female.
So the international travel consultant booked me flights to Riyadh on Emirates (via Dubai) and organised my accommodation and car hire. Can you see the problem yet?
In Saudi Arabia, women aren’t allowed to drive.
So I arrive in Riyadh and go to pick up my hire car…Guess what happens next?
No hire car for you!
I was on a plane back out of the country less than 24 hours later.
I plead ignorance here. I had assumed that because the travel department had booked me a hire car that maybe foreigners were granted an exception or that if you were in Saudi Arabia on a business visa that you got an exception. I don’t know what I was thinking. I did know about women not being allowed to drive there, so I’m not sure why I thought our travel department would be able to find a way around it. I’m not sure why the travel department didn’t actually check with me before making the car hire booking, but at that point it was too late.
It was partly my fault. And partly the travel department’s fault. Thankfully I was able to just change my return flights and therefore only had to spend one night in the country since I wasn’t actually going to be able to do the work I needed to do without a vehicle.
Regarding the food? I’ll write a separate post about vegan food on Emirates…But finding vegan food in my hotel in Riyadh for one night wasn’t too hard. Salad and vegetables. And then fruit for breakfast the next morning before flying back out again. I wish I had more to say on this, but due to my own stupidity, I wasn’t there long enough!
Typical vegan dinner fare at my hotel in Riyadh