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Today's quote:

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Welcome to the Kingdom

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In theory Saudi Arabia should not exist - its survival defies the laws of logic and history. Look at its princely rulers, dressed in funny clothes, trusting in God rather than man, and running their oil-rich country on principles that most of the world has abandoned with relief.

Shops are closed for prayer five times a day, executions take place in the street - and let us not even get started on the status of women. Saudi Arabia is one of the planet's enduring - and, for some, quite offensive - enigmas: which is why, three decades ago, I went to live there for a bit." [From Robert Lacey's book "Inside the Kingdom"]

You know I didn't write this, because it was four decades ago that I went to live there for a bit. While I was waiting for two weeks in a fancy 5-star hotel in Bahrain for my visa to come through, I had bought this book's prequel, "The Kingdom", at the hotel's bookshop but had to leave it behind before flying out to Jeddah after I had read on page 506 that it was banned from the Kingdom on the basis of eighty-two objections; from the reference on page 61 to the bedouin being 'fickle friends', to whole pages on Abdul Aziz's old age and the royal family's quarrels.


Inside my Jeddah office in 1981


Having just discovered its sequel "Inside the Kingdom", I can safely add it to my library without fear of censorship, but not before having reached the epilogue of this highly accomplished book of startling insights which should go into the bags of anyone who has to travel to the Kingdom - or did so four decades ago.

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