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I had visited Saudi Arabia twice before, and knew it was the hardest place on earth for a woman to negotiate.The preservation of these 500 houses surrounding a souk marks an attempt by the Saudis, whose oil profits turned them into bling addicts, to appreciate the beauty of what they dismissively call “old stuff.”Jidda means “grandmother” in Arabic, and the city may have gotten its name because tradition holds that the grandmother of all temptresses, the biblical Eve, is buried here—an apt symbol for a country that legally, sexually, and sartorially buries its women alive.
) According to legend, when Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden they went their separate ways, Adam ending up in Mecca and Eve in Jidda, with a single reunion. ) Eve’s cemetery lies behind a weathered green door in Old Jidda.
When I suggested we visit, Abdullah smiled with sweet exasperation.
The houses, empty now, are stretched tall to capture the sea breeze on streets squeezed narrow to capture the shade.
The latticed screens on cantilevered verandas were intended to ensure “the privacy and seclusion of the harem,” as the Lebanese writer Ameen Rihani noted in 1930.
Armed with moxie and a Burqini, the author confronts the limits of Saudi Arabian hospitality, as well as various male enforcers, learning that, as always, it matters whom you know.
I wanted to know all about Eve.“Our grandmother Eve?