Thanks everyone who helped me think this through. Every single one of you who responded to my cry for help was useful and I appreciate the support. This includes folk whose response didn't make it into that last post.
While I was processing all the issues and writing that post, a friend met a Saudi woman academic on a post-grad course at her university. She put us in touch and I met this woman today- we talked in a cafe for over an hour.
I learned one new thing. It's tough for a woman from a Muslim country like Saudi to live in Scotland. There is one reason I hadn't considered. In Saudi Arabia women have to really cover up in any public space where there are (or might be) men from outwith their family. They have to wear those big tent things. Apparently in Jeddah, which is a bit less conservative, they can show their face; in Riyadh, the capital, where I am going, they cover even the face. However, virtually all spaces outwith the home are gender-segregated: there are men's, women's and family spaces (e.g. in cafes, restaurants, hotels, universities). So Saudi women wear what we would consider a normal range of clothing and makeup virtually everywhere except outside, for which they throw their big tent thing on over the top.
In Scotland, the woman I met has to (well, she doesn't have to, she just feels she has to) construct an entire wardrobe around her religious restrictions: headscarf, full-length skirt or dress, long sleeved loose tops. That's pretty much all she ever gets to wear and it's a hassle.
Now, there are plenty of things about that which one could comment on in various ways, but I don't really feel like doing that right now. The woman I met is my age, interesting, kind, intelligent, insightful, articulate and funny. She is a devout Muslim who doesn't see anything wrong with her home culture. I don't in any way feel any different about my take on this trip as being like a black person visiting South Africa during apartheid.
However, she and I discussed all the risks I was afraid of confronting by travelling to Saudi Arabia. She acknowledged that there are certain people in her country who interpret things in ways that make things difficult for people; she acknowledged the risks. But somehow speaking with her made me feel more positive about going, and more capable of managing the risks.
I decided the one thing I need to do to feel safer (and probably to be safer) is make sure I travel there on the same flight as my boss so I am in the company of a man when I arrive and leave. Luckily he understands this won't affect our basic relationship, where he doesn't tell me what to do, and, where necessary, I do tell him what to do.
Apart from that, bad things may happen, but all travel is a risk, and I am willing to take this one: not because I think I have anything great to offer them over and above just myself, but because I want to meet more women living under this regime, and learn more about their lives. I want to be better informed, and I want to offer anything I can offer; I just don't know what that might be yet.
Of course I will blog and tweet while I'm there, if and when I can.