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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 14: 8 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysSo in this desert miles away from anywhere is this Las Vegas-like symbol of the fusion of the spiritual and commercial. In the neon-glowing streets, all spotless testimonials to the start of Fifth National Cleaning Week and the success of the previous four, glittering modern buildings rise above the old mud dwellings. There seems no attempt here to preserve the old city, as in Jeddah. Perhaps there was no old city. All is new and confident. It's Riyadh, Texas.

To the Al-Khozama hotel. Rather an anti-climax to have made our way to the heart of the Arabian Peninsula only to find that businessmen of every western country have got here first. In reception deals are being done and an English couple are arguing: 'The trouble with Arthur is, that Arthur's been out here too long'.

My spirits are revived by a lovely meal at a simple Lebanese restaurant. A meze with fresh radishes, mint, onions, lettuce and tomatoes as sweet and succulent as those we ate in Egypt, tahini, houmus with aubergine, then a mixed grill of tender and flavoursome shashlik and shish kebab.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 14
  • Date: 8 October
  • Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
  • Place: Riyadh
  • Book page no: 57

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