I’ve loved Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel since, like, ever. It’s a brilliant show, unlike other travel shows he isn’t invested in saying that everything is wonderful. Like the time he ate the barely cleaned boar anus in Namibia. In the voice over he clearly and succinctly stated just how awful that experience was. But even better, he commented on the graciousness required, expected and demanded by a wealthy westerner eating hard won food with people who are sharing out of their poverty. You don’t have to like it, or even keep it down, but you must, absolutely must, be grateful. For another perspective on that watch his Peru show. Really brilliant.
All that being said, read the comments. I’m highly curious how Danya was able to travel about with Tony and without the apparent company of a family male. Saudi Arabia’s laws regarding women don’t just restrict their ability to drive or vote. They can not leave the house without a male. To be out in the company of a man who is not family (husband, brother, father) is illegal. I’m highly suspicious of their neglect to mention that and what exactly they did to deal with that.
Saudi Arabia exports the most extreme form of Islam, Wabbhabism. It isn’t just a coincidence that 15 of the 19 hijackers that attacked the US on September 11 were Saudi. I’d have liked to see more on that. But that wasn’t the purpose of the show.
The purpose was to show us that Arabs and Muslims are people just like us. Yes, thank you, I’m fully aware of that. It is only an idiot or a moron who thinks that different people, people on “the other side” are a homogeneous mass of evil. That’s the stupid and lazy mistake of the shallow and unchallenged. I don’t make that one, not that I don’t make other mistakes. However, as in all things, I do prefer my truth neat, in a clean glass. This show was a neat and lovely bit of propaganda. I am not saying that the people depicted are other than they appeared. I am certain that Danya and her family and friends are delightful people, I can not imagine that a woman with a laugh like that is anything other. I am saying that anyone who wanders into Saudi Arabia expecting Tony’s experience to be the norm will be in for a shock. Hopefully not a deadly one.
I’ve noticed, as have many, that when it comes to criticizing Islam there is a greater caution exercised if not avoidance all togeather. There is a decided restraint from critiquing the religion that is currently committing the vast majority of terrorism in the world. No such restraint or respect is given to Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism. Perhaps that is because people practicing those religions are not given to slaughter to avenge a perceived insult. No one dies when Christians are called whatever is the popular insult du jour. The same is not true of Islam.
So, all that said, wonderful show. Watch it. But please, remember, it is television, an entertainment meant to cause enjoyment. While entertainment can be informative, remember that this is NOT an exhaustive, comprehensive and unbiased report of the entirety of Saudi Arabia. It is the edited account of a government sanctioned trip to one of the most restrictive countries in the world. With that in mind, watch it. Please.
So, Tony updated his blog with a pretty good piece speaking about exactly this. Interesting.