Ten days in a lorry travelling back from Riyadh in 1977 was my most intense travelling experience. Through Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, the old Yugoslavia, and into Europe, everything went wrong: the lorry broke down, the driver lost his papers, and I had to fight him off nightly, that problem solved by stomach bugs as a result of sharing tea and water melon with a wolfish group of fellow lorry drivers. We made a detour to the ruins of Jerash, and circled the endless slums of the Damascus ring road. We crossed the Taurus mountains by night, stayed two unforgettable days in Istanbul, passed horse carts in Bulgaria and slowly re-acclimatised to Europe in the sterile service stations of the autobahns. I have been a tourist many times since but never travelled in quite the same uncomfortable, raw, but immediate way.
Hidden behind two yellow doors is the Sheraton Beach Hotel. It takes you straight on to the Red Sea. Brilliant for diving, with all facilities available, ask for Marlon, the resident dive instructor to take you around the coral and visit the: turtles, sharks, conger eels, rays, clownfish, starfish, napoleons, dolphins, lionfish, puffers, pipefish, yellow angels, purple angels, and many more.
This place really is a paradise on earth for marine life, and you get a great restaurant too. There are also chalets for sleeping over as it is quite a way from Jeddah city centre on the north road, past the airport, then third exit at the famous camel roundabout. This road hugs the coastline with palaces on your left and desert on your right, although by now it is probably built-up. This place with Marlon and friends made life liveable for three years of my life. Say hello to Marlon.
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