Polemics & Exchanges

On Dangerous Travels

Harry Nicolaides, in “Letter From Saudi Arabia: The Year of Teaching Dangerously” (Correspondence, September), recounted an experience that an acquaintance found to be farfetched.  Although I have never lived in Saudi Arabia, I experienced almost every element of Mr. Nicolaides’ story while living in France and Germany.

While studying and working in France in 1997, it was not uncommon to run across Algerians, in the Muslim parts of Paris, peddling bootleg pornography.  And although they considered all French women to be whores, it certainly did not stop them from hounding French women in bars.  Like a pack of wolves fresh on the scent, they would work in groups, catcalling and groping often defenseless females sitting alone.

The real award, though, goes to the Azerbaijanis and Egyptians who were studying at the same Goethe-Institut as I in Dresden.  Many of the stories (and I’ve recounted them frequently over a gin and tonic to friends) seem straight out of Borat.  One Azerbaijani told me that a doctor recently had proved the Azerbaijani penis to be the most virile in the world.  And, while reveling in such national treasures, they would often become very “touchy” with me and the other Westerners there (mostly Swedish attorneys).  They were not “gay,”...

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