Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bourdain in Saudi Arabia

I have mixed feelings about this post. I used to enjoy Bourdain's show on travel channel. The first episode I saw was when he was in Lebanon during the 2006 war. I enjoyed that episode a lot because it refrained from taking a side. It was more like - "here's Lebanon, I don't get it - it's not really Paris of the Middle East as far as I can tell. Oh good Humus". (not actual quote - just the impression I got) In that episode Bourdain and his crew were evicted by US troops on the shores of Lebanon while the war raged on.

Anthony Bourdain usually narrates his show with snickering remarks about the people he visits, remarks he dares not to say to their faces only to finish it all up with a romantic view from a far which usually in some way compares western culture to where he's at and asks - are we any better?

At some point I stopped watching. Something ticked me off and I don't really remember what it was. There's something about his smugness that got to me. Yesterday I took the chance again... and reading from the title you already know where he went this time.

Anthony-Bordain-Blog: Wrong Again!

While searching red-lasso for the video I realized they only carry food network, not travel channel, so if you're really patient - read his blog. As the nice folks at the travel channel site want us to know; He's a Chef, world traveler and best-selling author.

I recommend viewing that show - just to hear him say something like: "It's not like what they say about Saudis in the news isn't correct, it is. It's just that there's another story to tell." (not exact quote) Also a recommended highlight - Bourdain's frightened and embarrassed face as everyone around him goes to pray and he just sits there. By the way, if the Saudis funded this show to improve their reputation - I doubt it achieved that goal despite several affectionate remarks by Bourdain.

Personally - even if I could go visit there I wouldn't. I wouldn't visit a place which prohibits all other religion except it's own. I wouldn't visit a place which keeps separate roads for infidels. I can't be fooled regarding how modern it is when women aren't allowed to travel by air alone or to get their own passport or drive cars or converse with strangers without a male family member present. It's just not all smiles and great food in a place that teaches 3 year old toddlers that Jews are monkeys and apes and ought to be murdered. For me, there is no other story to tell until any of these horrible facts change.

I say: Watch this show - it's a must and one of Anthony Bourdain's best.

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