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If you believe a new Burger King ad playing in the kingdom, Americans are clueless about the Middle East.
From an advertising firm employee in Riyadh:
“Pre-911 [sic], I got a lot of the typical: ‘Does your family own an oil well? Do they live in tents? Do you guys ride camels?’
“Then there was 911, and the questions became: ‘Is it safe over there? Aren't you afraid someone is gonna bomb you? Do people spray each other with machine guns all the time?’
“Absolutely no more camel & tent questions.
“It is quite obvious that people back in the USA assume I live in SaudiRaqiRanOstan.
“But the silliest question asked recently was [with a slight Southern accent]: ‘Is it true that if you look at a woman over there they will cut off your ding-dong?’”
From a Saudi woman studying in New York:
“I would have to say the most ridiculous question I keep getting is whether or not I'm a princess. I wish, but no, no … For some reason, being a female from a Gulf state and showing a somewhat reasonable propensity for styling yourself a certain way makes you a princess. Hey, I'm not complaining. It's just ridiculous in that it's so, so untrue!”
From an employee of a U.S. corporation with offices in Riyadh:
“I actually had an executive visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time to take part of an event I was doing. I was expecting a series of questions about security and safety of the country as those were very common. However the funniest and most outrageous question I got was: ‘Is English understood commonly?’”
From a Saudi male blogger in Riyadh:
“I got asked by a visiting female member of parliament: ‘Is it true that if your house has a girl ready for marriage you have to put a flag on your roof?’”
From friends of the blogger, which he collected for me by Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr:
“Is it true that a Saudi can marry four wives?”
“Are all your taxis BMWs?”
“How many wives do you have?”
“Have you seen Osama [bin Laden] before?”
“What is the name of the city in Saudi Arabia that allows alcohol??”
Answer: None. The questioner was thinking of the neighboring country of Bahrain, which permits alcohol consumption.
From an American who grew up in Saudi:
“The craziest thing I have ever had anyone sincerely ask me was if I spoke Muslim.”
From a Saudi student in Virginia:
“All the people that I know are quite educated, and I have never heard a crazy or stupid comment about Saudi Arabia from any of the people that I have met. I would call Americans, even those who are well-educated, outdated for the lack of a better term ... They still think that if you steal [in Saudi Arabia], they will cut your hands off!
“I usually respond by saying it's a law, but it's not implemented or enforced anymore — just like cohabitation laws in Virginia.”