Saudi Arabia today



The invitation to dinner was made in the morning in the minister’s office. A car would come to the hotel to pick me up around about nine. We drove through Riyadh at breakneck speed, bumping along the dusty city roads, then came out on a straight, wide highway, which went directly into the desert. On either side square plots of sand were marked out ready to be bought, sold, or built upon. The real-estate boom was just getting under way. The minister greeted us at the front gate. A high wall surrounded the building, keeping the desert sand at bay and preserving the privacy of his home. We passed through the hallway and into a huge reception room, the floor thick with the best carpets money can buy, deep plush armchairs lining three of the four walls—the fourth wall was a separating screen from what turned out to be the dining room. Introductions were made—two other ministers were arriving, there were two other British journalists, a Canadian banker, an American newspaper publisher, and a diplomat. All men. We sat down, ranged around the edges of the room with dark-skinned Yemeni servants pouring scented Cardomom coffee into small cups with incredible accuracy. There would be five cups in one hand, each piled on top of the other.


Saudi Arabia Dine Room Desert Sand Front Gate Friday Prayer 
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© Peter Hobday 1978

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