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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 15: 9 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysHe waves a sheaf of customs papers in the direction of the guardhouse, now fading in the dusk: 'They're all new here. The old ones were alright. This lot don't know what they're doing'. It turns out that what irks him most of all is that he was asked to change into long trousers before they'd even look at his papers.

Neon lights flash on, off and finally on again at the top of the local minaret, bathing the place in a lurid blue glow. A pick-up truck goes through with two racing camels kneeling in the back. Amazing how neatly two camels fit in a Datsun.

At last our taxi arrives, and we are driven the 100 kilometres to Abu Nathil, the next Qatari border post. Here two bits of bad news are waiting. One is that though this may be the end of Qatar, it is not the beginning of the United Arab Emirates. There is another 100 kilometres of Saudi Arabia in between, and our driver is not allowed to cross this. Furthermore, the clocks are one hour ahead in the Emirates. The connection arranged for us by Nick will have given up and gone by the time we get there, and there's nothing we can do about it.

It's now 7.15 in the evening, and the Qatari customs here are even more obdurate. We wait our turn behind a Syrian truck driver, travelling with wife and children. More embarkation cards to fill in, more windows to be referred to. The sight of a cockroach at my feet making off with a crumb reminds me that I've only eaten a cheese sandwich since that far-off breakfast in Riyadh.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 15
  • Date: 9 October
  • Country/sea: Qatar
  • Place: Abu Nathil
  • Book page no: 61

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