We have been granted access to things that regular visitors would not be allowed to see. For example, we were given a guided tour of Aramco's computer center. This high-tech center of numerous, large super computers, is watched at all times by over two hundred security cameras! Access is extremely restricted--a limited number of Aramco employees need at least 2 codes to get through the intense security. We were not allowed to take pictures of any kind. Additionally, we were invited to tour a Saudi couple's home(more like a mansion!) This too is extremely rare. Finally, every meal we are served is a feast! Last night we dined on lobster, crab, shrimp, and other seafood. (See picture!) So, while we would not be considered "tourists," our experience has really shown us a luxurious perspective on Saudi Arabia.
All that being said, we are limited in many respects. For example, Nigel asked if we were able to visit the mosque at Mecca. The answer here is no. In fact, no non-muslims are allowed in the city. Non-muslims are diverted around it and have to take another road. This is because the city is the most holy of all, as it is the birthplace of Islam and extremely holy as it relates to the Prophet Muhammud. I really respect this. Globalization is an amazing phenomenon. However, perhaps some places should be reserved for a select few, especially holy places. They are, after all, extremely important to people. To allow visitors would detract and potentially damage such important places.
Thanks for the great questions Nigel!