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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 12: 6 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysMost of the menial work in Saudi Arabia is done by foreigners. As well as the Egyptians there are Yemenis and Filipinos and South East Asians. The Saudis prefer to be behind desks, they don't really like to get their hands dirty. Difficult to know, quite inscrutable people, according to Nick from the embassy. As he says this I notice two men greeting each other with a rather delicate kiss on each cheek like a couple of French ladies in a café.

A Chinese boat, the Cha-Hwa of Keelung, is pulling into the harbour as we make our way through the white and grey marbled gatehouses and out of the port. The sign to the city centre is spelt in the American way 'center'. Sony, Sharp and Panasonic signs abound. But perhaps the greatest shock is the Red Sea Palace Hotel. Not only is there hot and cold running water, there are valets in little hats and sachets of 'Foaming Bath Cream' and music seeping out of the ceiling. Nothing in the previous twelve days has prepared me for this, and I quite forget for a while that we have no idea how we're going to leave this place. Consult Dan Bannerman, a shipping agent and a Liverpudlian, born a football pitch's distance from Anfield. He confirms there is no alternative to the slow boat to Dubai, and indeed it's even slower than we thought, stopping to unload on the way.

The only way to make up time is for me to drive overland to the Gulf, a distance of about 1800 kilometres. It will be very tricky to obtain permission for such a journey but Achmed agrees to try.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 12
  • Date: 6 October
  • Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
  • Place: Jeddah
  • Book page no: 52

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