Istanbul is amazing for football, especially Galatasaray (craziest audience I've ever seen) and Besiktas (most beautifully located stadium in the world probably). Honestly, Istanbul is the best in every possible way. It has such an incredible amount of culture, the people are extremely friendly and tolerant, western and eastern culture go hand in hand, the architecture is lovely, you got a city as big as the average county in Germany or England, ... Istanbul to me is nearly a perfect city, only its huge size is a coin with a flip side (the girl I fancied lived in the same city but 2 hours away from my district of the town
As for Saudi Arabia: I also think the restrictions are exagerated really. The press will report the bad things only, like the women who get arrested for talking to a man or driving a car, or an execution by beheading. Of course this is totally wrong and inhumane, but these things must be exceptions. And of course, as badmouthing Islam is a new fashion in our shameless western media, they will focus on those things happening and pretend that these are everyday events in Saudi. It probably happens only once in a while, and no matter how wrong those events are, I also find it hard to believe that this would be a regular event.
What does bother me and stops me from going:
- the segregation of genders. I like girls
and I find the thought unpleasant that I would not even be able to have a friendly chat with a girl without people saying I violate a law. But I guess in practice, these laws are not enforced that often? Still, I am not a flirter and hate casual sex, but if I really like a woman I like to be able to express my feelings, which would be a bit difficult in the KSA.
- I as an autistic behave a bit differently than most people, and I do consider Saudi Arabia as a country where minorities are at risk. People would notice me behaving a bit odd, and then just try explaining the police about autism. My medication which is medically necessary for me, may be seen as a drug, and that could get me in serious problems.
- Mecca, the most fascinating city in the country, is not even open to non-Muslims so I would feel weird about visiting a country where the main attraction pole is not open to non-Muslims.
Despite these critics, I highly respect Islam and am heavily against the Islamophobia in the western world. IMO islamic societies show a lot more tolerance and solidarity, so us westerners could learn a lot from it. I do judge capital punishment and corporal punishment, but Saudi Arabia is not the only one to blame there, I equally judge the US for that.
In general the restrictions work two ways. What is forbidden can scare you off but attract you at the same time. The restrictions make Saudi Arabia having an air of mystery, an undiscovered land. So that makes it maybe more interesting to visit in a way. I hope the restrictions will be abolished some time, and then I would be on the first plane as it seems an incredibly beautiful country. The Middle East in general is a fetish of mine, mainly Israel, Turkey, Oman, Lebanon, Yemen and Iran are places I want to really see more of in the future.
And definitely check those two bands I named. Their lyrics sort of express the secret revolt young Saudis feel about their life with restrictions, so the lyrics of those two bands are quite political. Needless to say they rely on internet distribution rather than official permissions to sell in stores. The production quality of their music is bad, but they do rely on amateurish studios to record, because no professional studios are available in Saudi Arabia for hard rock and punk music.