Around the World in 80 Days
Day 13: 7 October
And yet, though there are Big Macs and family playgrounds, the women of Saudi Arabia cannot drive, nor, for instance, can they find employment on their own airline, where the stewardesses are English or Canadian. In the shops I can buy every kind of sophisticated communications equipment and yet the Observer newspaper I buy in the hotel is crudely censored. A photo of Olympic athletes Mary Slaney and Yvonne Murray has been scored out with black pentel below the women's necks. A half-page article on the drug Ecstasy has been partially cut out and a feature on Lord Lichfield's Pirelli calendar entirely black-pencilled. To a first-time Western visitor it is all most confusing, this mixture between the primitive and the sophisticated, the plutocratic and the austere, the open and the tightly closed.
Another night in Jeddah. To pass the time Passepartout and I visit one of the fairgrounds. It's family night, which means women and children only. Inside there is neon and music and bright lights, but only a few children, supervised by women in black. On one carousel children ride farmyard animals to the music of 'Old Macdonald Had A Farm'. Another, more energetic ride carries with it the warning, 'for your safety this game is not allowed for those who suffer from . . . hearts, diabetics, nerves, high pressure and the pregnants'. Beneath the sign a group of Arab women, black veils flying, are sitting together in a huge teacup as it whirls round a teapot. Sadly it's too dark to film.
Above the Atallah Happyland flies the Saudi flag, unique in the world for having an inscription on it. It reads, 'There is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet'. I must hope both are on my side tomorrow.
Choose another day from Around the World in 80 Days
- Series: Around the World in 80 Days
- Day: 13
- Date: 7 October
- Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
- Place: Jeddah
- Book page no: 54
Bookmarks will keep your place in one or more series. But you'll need to register
and/or log in.