Like many standard Americans, my business relations include dealings with gay men, and I know a pair that recently had a same-sex wedding. They have asked me to recommend a post-nuptial trip, and I have responded by telling them nearly all the Middle East and Africa is too dangerous for their plans.
In that giant area of the world, homosexuality is often regarded as a crime to be punished by imprisonment or worse.
Around the same time, several friends were planning to attend the Ramallah Film Festival in the West Bank—Ramallah being the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority. I had to advise them that the Palestinian Authority has also named homosexual activity as a crime punishable by imprisonment or worse. Several of those friends would thus find the destination too dangerous to risk.
Similar concerns have occurred to me following publication in the press of the plans of Marriott Hotels to operate a giant Luxury Collection hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (pictured).
The Saudi government, led by its Crown Prince, has recently announced that Saudi Arabia was now open to tourism.
Although I have not yet carefully researched the Saudi law, I have no doubt whatever that homosexuality will be condemned in that nation, placing homosexual guests of the Marriott at risk.
But female guests of the Marriott will also, in my opinion, be limited in their stay there.
Although the Saudi government has recently ruled that women can now drive cars, I have not seen similar liberal expansion of other rules relating to women there.
Will female guests of the Marriott be permitted to leave the grounds of the hotel without a head scarf? Will they be permitted to travel elsewhere in the kingdom without a man accompanying them?
I can think of no country elsewhere in the world where women may be more limited in their rights, and I really wonder whether the Marriott executives have dealt with that problem.
Will Marriott’s staff for this Saudi hotel enjoy the rights that women all over the world have achieved?
Those problems are all in addition to the outrage that many of us feel over last year’s murder of journalist Khashoggi. No reasonable explanation has thus far been provided by Saudi Arabia, and its openness to investigation is thus sadly incomplete, if indeed it will ever be disclosed.
Has the Marriott chain ever dealt with that or similar issues? Has it shown the slightest concern over that issue of human rights?
I, for one, would never dream of patronizing a hotel in Saudi Arabia, and hope that our readers feel the same.
Marriott Hotels, you should feel ashamed.