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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 12: 6 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysAs the sun burns off the morning mist, the skyline of Jeddah is clearer. If I shut my ears to the Arabic radio exchanges between the pilot and the shore I could imagine myself in America, Japan or Singapore. There's no minaret, dome or crescent moon in sight. Instead, the tall towers of a de-salination plant dominate a waterfront of extensive jetties, state of the art cranes and gantries, all set out spaciously and tidily, like an architect's model. Everything has been built in the last fifteen years. It is the formidable face of a boom economy. I can't help thinking that this is what Victorian Britain must have felt like. Now it seems quite strange - the unfamiliar feeling of being in a country which can afford anything it wants.

In the last 48 hours I've grown very fond of Captain Abbas and we leave with regret. His boat I shan't shed many tears for, though. I feel travel-worn and grubby and haven't had a good bath since leaving the Egitto.

On the quayside at Jeddah we're met by Achmed, our man from the Ministry (of Information), and Nick, a young man from the British Embassy in Riyadh. Everything is very formal here. Things have to be done the right way. The cheerful anarchy of Egypt is a thing of the past. For the grubby, flagged floor of the custom-house in Alexandria substitute an air-conditioned plastic-finished international terminal. VDU screens shimmer behind colour-coordinated desks. The walls are covered with framed evidence of the Saudi boom - photos of dams, highways, power lines. For the Egyptian workers from off the Saudi Moon it's the Promised Land, but not their Promised Land. One of them has a last spit in a lined litter-bin before his passport is stamped.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 12
  • Date: 6 October
  • Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
  • Place: Jeddah
  • Book page no: 51

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