Sky published a story about a Saudi prince sending a letter to his Government warning of the threat posed by the oil and gas fracking technology, which has been able to tap into new and vast underground reserves in the US and Canada. In his letter, al-Waleed bin Talal recommended economic diversification.
How can Saudi Arabia, a country amalgamated around the sands of a great desert, diversify and what industries should it consider?
Diversification is a difficult and arduous economic and social process, which begins with existing foundations the society can tap into, be it in trained and skilled labor or high education or stable physical infrastructures that complement its geography or its history. Many Arab countries have found tourism to be an easier diversification process because most Arab countries lack the skilled labor to consider any alternatives.
For a moment, let us pretend you are the King of Saudi Arabia – playing SimSaud if you wish– with an urgent task of diversifying into the tourism industry, which complements already the religious industry in place attracting millions of pilgrims to Makah every year.
In order to attract tourists from all over, you need monuments, historical buildings, Mausoleums of historical figures, Museums, beautiful beaches, fancy hotels, and clubs for the tourists to wind down after a long day of gazing and learning. All this in addition to an effective marketing campaign of “Saudi Arabia Wants You”.
Let us look at what tourists can visit in Saudi Arabia.
First, tourists need to apply for a Visa in one of your Consulates around the world. After they fill the main application, they flip the form and the following questions appear:
1) Are you Jewish? If not, go to question two.
2) Do you know any Jewish people? If not, go to question three.
3) Have you been circumcised by a Jewish Doctor? If not, go to question four.
4) Have you ever worked, invested, or entered a company that employs Jews? If not, congratulations and welcome to Saudi Arabia. (Note: if you lied on this application, we reserve the right to cut off your tongue upon your arrival).
5) If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, please leave the Consulate immediately. We are providing you with soap and water on the way out to wash your tongue, eyes, hands, and feet.
Tourists arrive to Saudi Arabia, looking proud to have passed your test.
With all these tourists flocking, you, as the King of Saudi Arabia, will have a major problem on your hand. The religious Wahabbis running the society are outraged these Christian tourists will leave Saudi Arabia as Christians. They ask you to build a Mosque, between the arrival gates and the customs and immigration halls, which each tourist must go through to recite the Shahada to a Mutawe’h.
In order to maintain peace and order, you agree with their rational request, thus creating the largest religious conversion system in the world that tourists who refuse to obey will turn into “Snowdens in Sheremetyevo”.
You, as the King of Saudi Arabia, reason that because the tourists arriving in your country have never had any contacts with Jews, they will be good obedient Muslims.
On with the program.
Tourists across Europe visit dungeons to witness past evil, but if you, the King of Saudi Arabia, had to organize visits to your dungeons, they would look like reality shows. No, these are not “extras” on a movie set, they are real live political prisoners shackled for seeking freedom from tyranny. The religious fanatics all live in high-walled villas somewhere with only three wives as punishment. Where do you think Osama got his idea?
If you, as the King of Saudi Arabia, had to organize visits to monuments other than those in Makah, you are out of luck. Here is a long list of Mosques, tombs, and historical religious sites you destroyed because they may shadow your greatness. One of the sites you destroyed include the birth home of the Prophet Mohammad.
The best tourists can do is visit the Rub’ al-Khali, the largest desert in the world, and hope the white open Toyota truck they are stewing in does not break down on the way back. If they come back alive, a Mutawe’h will welcome them and beat them senseless for missing the noon prayers. After all, they already converted.
People in France visit the Versailles for its opulence and history, but in Saudi Arabia, you, as the King, have a choice amongst so many Saudsailles built by no fewer than 10,000 “princes by allowance” advancing the cause of a nation with their motionless existence. Your problem becomes how to evacuate these princely owners.
Should you succeed, you will have an even bigger problem.
Will the 100% solid 24 Karat gold toilet seats and bidets attract new kind of “Toilet Thieves” the Kingdom does not wish to attract?
As a King, you can resolve this problem by creating new “Toilet Police Special Forces” (TTSF); you will have Sheikh Ayman Al-Zawahiri train them to include lifting heavy objects in case a thief succeeds in getting away with one of those shiny seats. You, as the King, will award contracts to arm the TTSF, and dress them in gold jump suits, to your own son, bored out of his wit, in order to keep him from overdosing on some substance designed especially for him in some Viennese laboratory located across the street from his bank account.
If tourists need to sizzle on a beach, you, as the King of Saudi Arabia, must maintain the religious decorum prevalent in the society. Therefore, you task the blind Sheikh Mohammad with creating a new line of black swimsuits especially made for all the tourists flocking the Jeddah and Dammam beaches that let the sun in without any of the skin showing. Look ma, no tan lines.
Their own sweat oils their skin for a better tan, which also has a side benefit because it relieves the tourists from rubbing their skin erotically in public. You give them away with a stern warning for a free dungeon visit should they wear anything else.
While on the beach, tourists have the choice of sipping a non-alcoholic beer made locally or a Kaki-Cola. However, as the King, you commission the religious professors at King Abdul Aziz University, representing 50% of the staff, to create a non-alcoholic Whiskey beverage to provide a choice you can market effectively in your “Saudi Arabia Wants You” campaign. Who would not want to get faithfully drunk on a non-alcoholic Whiskey?
After a long and tiring day, you, as the King, provides clubbing facilities for the tourist entertainment; but since the Mutawe’h do not allow music in public, the clubs will play back episodes of al-Jazeera Imams preaching in favor of female genital mutilation. You, as the King, want many to entertain themselves by believing and praying instead of dancing.
Finally, as tourists leave your country, you give them goodie bags. Inside are a half torn bill of $1,000 and a note. The note reads, “You will get the other half upon your return next year if you rave about your experience”. Next year, you, as the King, repeat the same ploy.
Saudi Arabia completes a successful tourism diversification program. Al-Waleed bin Talal should no longer worry too much about shale oil and fracking.
(Author’s note: This was written sipping a Café Mocha and with the hope that self-assured Saudi citizens will not find it offensive, but rather constructive).