I’m in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a land where much is changing.  There are sparkling skyscrapers, Starbucks, Uber, all mixed up together with traditional conservative ways.

Here’s a photo of a typical Riyadh Starbucks. Note the two entrances, separated by a wooden wall. The entrance on the left is for “singles” (unaccompanied men) the one on the right is for “families” (one or more women, possibly with attendant men). The wall continues inside, all the way across the store to the counter. Woe betide a single man who enters on the wrong side.

As a single male, it was of course a great relief to see this sensible arrangement and to know I could drink my mocha in peace, safe from the predatory gaze of lascivious women.

But this is all about to change. The government is currently updating the law to remove this requirement. I’m curious how that will play out – it’s possible that some women will still prefer to use traditional family sections where current social norms allow them to relax and unveil.

Another Starbucks issue is prayer times. Yes, they roll down the blinds and lock the doors for 15-30 minutes or so at the mandatory prayer times. If you arrive at the wrong moment you have to wait patiently until they reopen. (But if you get inside in time, it’s OK to keep sipping.) 

Of course it’s not just Starbucks that’s segregated:

Burger King

Texas Chicken

Buffalo Wild Wings