A recent reuters news item that “Saudi authorities, breaking with religious codes that require women to be accompanied by a male guardian, have decided to allow women to stay in hotels on their own” did not garner much attention in the US presumably because Saudi Arabia is not a frequent destination for US travelers; besides the Saudi strictures against women were not usually applied rigorously to the few foreign women who traveled there alone. The royal decree required the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry to lay down new regulations that simply require women to show personal identification including a photograph, which hotel managers must register with local police (presumably as a formality). But along with the “liberalization” for hotels came a ruling on women driving – a welcome step for Saudis and foreigners alike.
In the same region, Forbes has a story on the extensively opulent hotels that are opening. The article notes that “in the Middle East, it’s not only oil that’s booming. Business and leisure travel to the region has climbed 18% a year since 2005”. That has sparked interest in the “palace-style hotels that once pampered kings and aristocrats”. One such hotel is the “Emir Amin Palace Hotel in Beiteddine, Lebanon. Its 22 elegant, spacious guest rooms and stunning views of the Shouf Mountains from the garden afford guests an exclusive perspective of the lifestyle of princes and the land they once roamed”. However, with the situation in Lebanon still in a state of flux, foreigners may want to tarry a while before they explore the erstwhile abode of grandees.