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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 14: 8 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysMy Arab Gazette tells me it's the start of Fifth National Cleaning Week. For me it's the end of Second Travelling Week and nothing is getting easier. The word is that Achmed has been up all night at the Ministry, and at 3.30 a.m. finally secured permission for myself, Clem and Nick from the embassy to drive across Saudi Arabia. It's now eight o'clock in the morning and there is no sign of Achmed or the permission. Nick is anxious to be leaving, for we have an 1100-kilometre drive ahead of us. This will take us to Riyadh, and after that there are still more than 1000 kilometres to the Gulf. It's like driving from London to the Black Sea in one weekend.

At last Achmed, with neat beard and fresh white thobe (as the Saudis call the jellaba), enters the lobby of the Red Sea Palace waving our travel permission like a latter-day Neville Chamberlain. Profuse thanks, then into Nick's Toyota Cressida and we head for the hills.

Not far from Jeddah the road divides on creedal grounds. A huge gantry straddles the motorway, indicating two lanes for 'Moslems Only' and a slip road for 'Non-Moslems'. Only Moslems may look upon the Holy City, so we must take the Christian exit.

Here also we must leave Ron, Nigel, Julian and Angela Passepartout. They will fly on to Dubai and try and fix up a dhow to take us to India. It's a sad moment, as we were enjoying seeing the world together, and regard going on aeroplanes as a cheat.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 14
  • Date: 8 October
  • Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
  • Place: Jeddah
  • Book page no: 56

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