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Riyadh
 

There is something eerily strange the first time you approach Riyadh by plane. One would expect a a dry, and blue, and clear sky. And one would expect to see the city from above, glowing in the dawning sun. Ulysses looked from the window, and saw little, if anything. The desert seemed to have disappeared underneath a thick seam of fog. In fact, during the entire flight he had not been able to see it.

As the plane was getting closer Ulysses was finally able to see something. As it was getting dark the spaceship like airport suddenly glowed revealing that the fog was made of dust. The passengers soon entered the terminal to discover how slavery still existed. The large crowd was divided into a line for special people, two for the whites, and several for the Bangladeshis, the Pakistanis, and other similar looking people. Bad enough that in the two lines for the whites one had to accept queuing for a few hours, looking with quite some envy at the line for special people, and looking with anger at the immigration officers more concerned with playing computer games on their smartphones than with clearing the visitors. Shockingly however for the western eye was to see how "the rest" was being treated: like cattle.

As a few hours later Ulysses finally got out of the building the usual dark limousine was waiting for him. He drove for a good two hours to reach his hotel pretty much in the center of the city, wondering how the place could have decupled in just four decades. A place to which desalinated water needs to pumped from thousands of miles away. At the hotel he was welcomed with some kind of a fruit tea and dates. It took an eternity to check-in, not because of a queue, but for some other impenetrable reasons. A beer, a simple beer would now have been great, but no such a thing seemed to exist there, not even in the enclave of his private hotel room.

Not quite knowing what to do, not having anybody to speak to, and having realized that not such a thing as sightseeing exists in Riyadh, Ulysses resorted to do what he always would do in such situations: go and visit a shopping mall, not the worst place to start getting in touch with a new culture. He did not quite know what to expect.

 

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