Since money is a small consideration in Saudi Arabia it is spent with abandon. The new airport in Riyadh, capital of the country, is one of the world’s largest. Occupying an area roughly 7.5 by 12 miles, it is designed to serve some fifteen million passengers by the year 2000. In the center of the passenger terminal complex is a mosque that can accommodate 5,000 worshipers inside plus 3,000 more on the plaza outside.
Pilgrimages are still much in vogue and constitute a large travel segment. During one week planes landed at Jeddah airport every two minutes to empty a load of pilgrims. In one week two million Muslims can circle the Ka’aba in the central courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. For the pilgrims the hajjâ is an opportunity to wash away all sins and take on a new name. One prayer said in the Grand Mosque is worth 100,000 said elsewhere. The hajjâ is responsible for a number of blacks living in Saudi Arabia today. Nigerians and Sudanese would sell their children in Mecca to help pay for their journey home. (Slavery was not abolished in Saudi Arabia until 1962.)
Saudi Arabia is not for the pleasure traveler, too expensive, no tourist attractions to speak of, too many restrictions. The average cost of a meal in one of the better restaurants is $100 for two people. This is without liquor, banned throughout the nation. Americans living in the country can hardly wait to take their extended travel vacations or return home. A little over a million visitors go to Israel annually.
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