If you drive from Riyadh to Dahran, the journey starts out along a not-so-wide straight road that cuts through the desert on either side. You get no hint of the oil wealth as you cover the monotonous tarmac ribbon to its end. Here and there a small shack, a shanty town with the inevitable gas station. Here and there the deep coloured sand of the Rub al Khali drifts gently up the sides of the road like a dusty incoming tide. Lorries thunder past you from the coast to the capital. Cars—usually Cadillacs—speed on their way. At prayer time, the cars and lorries stop at the roadside; the engines are left running for a quick getaway, and the driver and passengers are down on their knees praying in the direction of Mecca. Then in the distance the flames of Dahran, where the gas is burned off—enough every day, they say, to heat a major European city. Shimmering flames in a shimmering desert. And then the oil pipelines, where you sometimes see camels running wild and looking for a break in the pipe to get through to the other side. Then the railway, Saudi Arabia’s only piece of track, with the heavy engine and the clumsy rolling stock. And over there—it can’t be you say—somewhere in the United States—the Aramco compound, with a main street, P.T.A. meetings and a hamburger joint.
KeywordsSaudi Arabia Shanty Town United Nations Secretary General Prayer Time Price Freeze
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