LuganoPirate – heh! All it takes though is for one European woman on a Saudi flight to find herself stuck at the back of the plane (for example) and it could become a law suit.
rferguson – so far as I’m aware it’s cultural. As I said, interpretation of the Koran is divided on whether it prescribes segregation of the genders en masse. If you’re an individual woman, then the Koran says that you’re to avoid unchaperoned contact with a man but it doesn’t go further than that.
When I was in the UAE I had a meeting set up with a senior Emirati and he insisted on having a third party in the room because he was concerned about how it could be interpreted – nothing to do with religion and everything to do with playing down potential for gossip and smears.