“I’m in Jeddah baby, I’m in Jeddah, woah!”
Inspired by a 1980s documentary called 80 Days Around the World, whereby Michael Palin circumnavigated the globe without flying, I remember his visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In those days, backed by a huge BBC budget and a less strict government, Palin’s visa was a piece of cake. It was easy to secure. Fast forward to 2018 and we realise that Saudi Arabia (KSA, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is not an easy beast to backpack – in Cayman Island’s terms – tourist visas don’t exist. The country is often dubbed “the Forbidden Kingdom” due to its restrictions and the strictness of life here. But I’m here. I’m in Jeddah. It’s huge! Jeddah is also my 900th city (town/village/settlement/city etc.) on my journey, with Saudi Arabia country 163 on the Ultimate List.
Back in 2015, you might have read how I backpacked in Bahrain and drove myself to Middle Island – the famous island on the King Fahd Causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. At that time, I gazed over at the forbidden kingdom pondering on if I’d ever make it.
“Some might say that we should never ponder on our thoughts today, as they hold sway over time” – Noel Gallagher.
In January 2018 I was invited on a landmark tour and business trip to Saudi Arabia by Young Pioneer Tours. They are one of my favourite tour companies and I have met up with them in Poland, North Korea, China, Romania and Moldova before. This time, we are to attend the Hotel Show Saudi Arabia 2018. But in 10 days, I intend to get some good backpacking, sightseeing and travel writing done.
This is just a quick post typed up today from the hotel, the Hotel Mercure in Al Hamra, Jeddah. After securing my visa from the Saudi Arabia Embassy in London, after visits to the Warsaw one and lots of paperwork, I am delighted to be finally here. More stories will follow as I aim to also backpack through Riyadh, Madain Saleh, Ha’il, Ta’if and Twaren Valley and write as much as I can.