Will the real Muslims please stand up?

As usual at this time of year we’re in Bodrum, enjoying the Aegean sea and sunshine along with the rich and famous from Istanbul and further afield. Fortunately, the rich and famous don’t venture much to our part of the peninsula, so we don’t have a paparazzi in every tree with a metre-long telephoto lens that can detect a patch of cellulite or an incipient beer belly at a range of two kilometres or more.

Saudi prince and daughter? Wife?

This last week the local glitterati have been somewhat overshadowed by the presence of a certain Arab gentleman with the impressive name of El-Velid Bin Tallal Bin Abdülaziz El Suud. According to reports, he is a/the nephew of the Saudi King, and CEO of Saudi Arabia Incorporated, in Turkey with his wife and daughters to enjoy some of the freedoms that  are generally frowned upon back home.

Fair enough. Even royals need to let their hair down occasionally, and what better way to do it than on your 88-metre gold-plated yacht anchored offshore from one of Muslim Turkey’s more relaxed summer resorts. The yacht, of course, is not for actually travelling in – the princely family apparently arrived from Riyadh, or wherever they live, in their private plane. Anyway, you wouldn’t expect them to fly Gulf Air or Turkish Airlines would you? But this is no footling Lear Jet like any run-of-the-mill executive CEO. It seems our Saudi neighbours arrived in their personal full-size 747 Jumbo.

Well, I’m happy for them, I have to say. Maybe they’ll pick up some good ideas while they’re in Turkey and there’ll be a little less stoning, whipping and beheading after they get back home. Perhaps the daughters will get a taste for bikinis and décolleté evening wear, and persuade the Wahhabi religious police to relax the dress code for Saudi women. Now that the Prince has experienced the freedom of cycling around the Turkish countryside in a skimpy pair of shorts, he may think about allowing his national athletes at the London Olympics to compete in more sporty outfits.

Who knows? The power of example to influence others is well-known. Turkey may not possess all the freedoms that citizens of Western democracies take for granted, but the rights to don a bikini for a day at the beach, or sip a cold beer while reclining on your deckchair are not to be undervalued.

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