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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 15: 9 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysIn marked contrast to most other public places in Saudi Arabia, the border crossing at Abu Samra is shabby and down-at-heel. As I crouch down at a window, proffering my passport and our authorisation, I notice a sniffer dog being walked along a collection of carrier bags belonging to some Arabs of little wealth going the other way. The authorities are very confused as to what we're doing here, and we are eventually shown into the presence of the top man. He motions us to sit down on a couple of armchairs, in whose arms large holes have been gouged, revealing torn and fleshy sponge-rubber beneath. He is a handsome, softly spoken man. His subordinates are progressively fatter and uglier leading me to wonder if promotion can be based on looks. With an elegant economy of movement he orders us to be looked after. A subordinate thrusts a form at us. 'Fill this!' he shouts. Another crosses to a rack of sports lockers on the wall, rummages around and produces an official stamp.

At 2.35 we are shown out of Saudi Arabia and into Qatar, country number ten in fifteen days.

The Qatari customs shed is not run down, just bare. I begin to wilt in the heat as we are slowly moved from desk to desk. One look around at this fly-blown place reveals a total absence of the hoped-for taxi. When we make enquiries, we're made aware of how much we need Nick, or someone with a little of the language. There is no taxi rank for 50 miles. Clem goes to try and phone up a car from Doha, the capital of Qatar, whilst I try my luck at cadging us a lift. Three friendly Qatari policemen let me share their hut. They assure me they'll find a vehicle going our way, with the two words that mean you're sunk in any language: 'No problem'.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 15
  • Date: 9 October
  • Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
  • Place: Abu Samra (Saudi/Qatar border)
  • Book page no: 60

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