• Opening Ceremony: You'd think that the opening ceremony for Saudi Arabia's first women-only hotel would be packed with females. In most countries, yes. But not in Saudi Arabia, where women are tightly restricted in public places. None of the 20 female businesswomen who own the Luthan Hotel and Spa in Riyadh were in sight, says correspondent Caryle Murphy.
"The jostling throng of around 40 photographers, writers, and television cameramen who covered the ribbon-cutting ceremony included just three women: two Saudi television news readers and me," says Caryle. "And the ribbon was sliced by a man, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, secretary-general of the country's Supreme Commission for Tourism."
She says that the prince led the all-male official delegation down a hall for a cursory inspection of rooms. He then signed a guest book, made a short statement, and left without taking questions.
• Uninvited: It's interesting how some Iraqis receive US troops who come uninvited and unannounced to search their homes, says contributor Anna Badkhen, who wrote about the Americans' new real estate inspections in the Baghdad neighborhood of Saidiyah. Many offer bread and soft drinks, and at one house the platoon she was with ended up eating a meal of hot rice and okra sauce.
"In one house there was a Baghdad University professor of philosophy and his son, who is studying to become a dentist. They told the soldiers that their Bradley fighting vehicle had accidentally ripped the wire that used to carry power from a neighborhood generator to their home. But when the American lieutenant offered his apologies, they waved their hands at him, and said, in English: 'It's OK, it's OK, don't apologize.' "
And then the young man said: 'Tell us: Is there anything we can do for you?' "
– Michael B. Farrell
Middle East editor