And apparently they’re actually causing some changes in the kingdom.
Young men in a cafe here laughed when asked if, in an attempt to get dates, they still discreetly toss phone numbers at girls as they pass their cars or tables.
“That’s so five years ago,” says one. “We just get together in the family sections of cafes,” referring to the area of a restaurant that is walled off from where single male patrons dine.
Things are even loosening up in Riyadh, the desert capital in the center of Nejd, the province that gave rise to both the ruling Saud family and the Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahab, who gave the kingdom an interpretation of Islamic law that is among the strictest and most limiting in the world.
On the streets there, where just a few years ago the religious police would have harassed a woman who didn’t cover her face, some women go about with their hair uncovered — though a scarf is always handy. The religious police, or mutawaeen, have been much less assertive since Abdullah ascended to the throne two years ago.