The receptionist looks at me in distress and whispers a “do not” You almost don’t hear but it sounds like a bang. I just asked if I can use the hotel pool. “Nerd”. “But you don’t have it?”, I hear my voice. Again the grief, the low-eyed response. “Yes, but you can’t use it.” I. In the eight days of stay in Jeddah to cover the Super Cup. I woman. The swimsuit will never come out of my suitcase. My sex is your lock. Gym I can use, but the receptionist breathes halfway. “We have a tiny one, only for ladies, open from 08:00 to 23:00 and it is on the sixth floor. If you want to go, I must accompany you, to open it.” I have been in Arabia for 24 hours and it is the first time in all of them that I feel that my body is my prison.
“Jeddah is the most cosmopolitan city in Saudi Arabia”, José Galán has not stopped telling me. And I had not stopped feeling it since Sunday I landed in Saudi Arabia. Long sleeves, wide pants, a long black scarf on my shoulders in case I should cover my hair. But no, it was not necessary. Neither in the tail of the customs, nor in the subsequent control, nor inside the hotel, nor outside it. She was the only woman who was in jeans yesterday afternoon at a shopping center in Jeddah. If there were others, the long black cloth of the abaya covered them up to the feet. They wear white robes, red plaid scarf over the head. The complement of them is called niqab and its face only allows their eyes to be seen. Today, while I was eating, I agreed in the toilet with a Saudi woman who was cleaning her face. The niqab was not removed even in front of me. He just picked it up, a little with one hand, while with the other he passed a tissue around his skin. I think of that phrase from the book that I am reading, ‘Machines like me’, by Ian McEwan. “Anthropologists do not judge. They observe and realize human diversity. (…) What was bad in Warwickshire was of no importance in Papua New Guinea.” It has been requisitioning in my head since yesterday I read it on the plane. “At the local level, who could say what was good and what was bad?” They don’t look at me strangely for my jeans and my western shirt in a mall where you can only buy abayas.
Jeddah is a city of hellish air conditioners, horrible traffic and impatient horns. In which luxury is mixed with devastated buildings on the streets from which it is already difficult to see the source of King Fahd, in which filling a gas tank of a large car is 20 euros to change and it is rare to find women for the Street. Only men are seen. Except where there are children, the promenade near the hotel of Real Madrid and that group in the afternoon in the shadow of a semi-ruined building, near a shopping center. Only to them. But I don’t feel different from other countries in the world. I have not yet felt that my body can be my jail. The night has not yet come.
The night and that McDonalds door that I cannot enter. Men only. Mine is the one that is a little beyond. “Families.” There are the children, the marriages and the friends. A wall divides the premises. My classmates eat on the other side. The sliding door that connects both spaces can only be crossed by employees. Even so, I still don’t feel strange or, better said, I still don’t have to. I came from Warwickshire, this is Papua New Guinea. I have not yet returned to my hotel. I have two questions to ask the receptionist. Well, there really are three. The pool, the gym and how the damn room air conditioner is deactivated. One night, a cold. The first is no, the second half and the third cannot. Is Jeddah a city with untouched sidewalks (there are no butts, not even one, in the streets) and amusement parks with roller coaster on the third floor of a shopping center, which wants to open to the world with sports but in its hotels there They have built pools for women to use. They Yes. They are men. Their bodies here do not imprison.