Around the World in 80 Days
Day 13: 7 October
I wake with sulphurous tastes emanating from my stomach and decide to kill or cure by taking some exercise. I am a regular four-times a week runner at home and yet, apart from hopping over the Heraklion waterfront, I've taken no vigorous exercise for almost two weeks. Out on to the Corniche, passing on the way the remarkable Jeddah roundabouts, decorated with huge and playful sculptures: at one a 25-foot-high bicycle, at another a series of enormous Arab lamps, at another a concrete block with the front and back ends of cars embedded in it. The presence of these lighthearted civic ornaments is one of the paradoxes of a country which takes itself and its role in the world very seriously, which can in many ways seem severe and intolerant, which won't allow theatres or cinemas but loves fun fairs and garden centres. Sculpture is everywhere. No human representation is allowed so the abstract and surreal flourish in exuberant childlike designs - spiky cacti, boxes of treasure with jewels inside, stranded ships.
Out on the Corniche beside the Red Sea, I can run in my shorts, which it would be highly disrespectful to wear in the centre of the city, and think myself to be in California, especially when polystyrene Big Mac boxes from the nearby fairground blow across my path.
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- Series: Around the World in 80 Days
- Day: 13
- Date: 7 October
- Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
- Place: Jeddah
- Book page no: 54
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