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Of the former variety, Prince Khalid is exceptional.Tall, white-bearded, with quiet eyes, he looked like one of the three wise men of my imagination.When Khalid made any move to sit down or stand up, the nearest minion rushed to help with the chair as though his life depended on it.At the end of the meeting, the prince was surrounded by admirers.(The Sheraton Medina is set up for those guests: the five clocks behind the front desk do not show the time in, say, New York, London, Rome, Tokyo, and Mexico City but, rather, the hour of the five daily prayers that the kingdom observes assiduously.) Some 5 million guest workers--25 percent of Saudi Arabia's population--live here.
Excepting myself, my photographer, and his assistant, most of the trip's participants are septuagenarians.
Nancy York of Pasadena is one of three intrepid women who venture out of the hotel together, only to return promptly: two blocks out, she reports, drivers whistled and yelled at them in a threatening manner.
"They think that any woman out by herself is a prostitute," she speculates, then pauses.
I hear a little grumbling along the lines of "The pope doesn't care who visits the Vatican," but mostly our group is accepting.
After all, it's beastly hot outside--and since the fall of the Soviet Union, how many places are left on earth where you can be restricted to your hotel?