Turki had tried in vain all yesterday to get in touch with Baaboud Shipping and arrange a meeting with Ahmed. But this morning we had better luck. By 9.01am we had a meeting arranged. Turki donned his traditional Saudi garp (to enhance his already consummate Jedi skills) and by 10am we were in Ahmed Ibn-Ishaq’s office drinking green coffee and talking ships to Eritrea.
After Turki introduced me and explained that we had been told to come here by Abdullah, I explained my mission. Turki then smoothly fought my corner in Arabic, I can’t tell you how important the power of introduction is to The Odyssey: whenever I just ruck up and tell people what I’m doing they generally a) don’t believe me or b) think I’m a nut. It’s kinda embarrassing. Once that obstacle is out of the way, it makes things SO much easy to get the help I desperately need.
As the conversation continued it slowly dawned on me that things might finally be going my way. Ahmed was a cheerful chap (with a look of Clancy Brown about him) and he loved the idea that I was travelling all over the world without flying. I showed him my passport (avec visa) and he asked me if I was ready to leave tomorrow.
TOMORROW!!!?!?!? HELL YEAH!!
I couldn’t believe it. After two months of pretty much everything going wrong, it was now all going so right. And what’s more is that Baaboud Shipping’s cargo ship only goes to Eritrea two or three times a month: our timing was magnificent – the ship was in port and leaving tomorrow.
I think I danced a little jig.
Turki and I spent a good hour and a half with Ahmed and when we left it was jubilation all around. THIS is when I’m reminded of why I’m doing The Odyssey. The dizzying highs. The days when everything comes together with a perfection that could not be predicted. They make the days of frustration and loneliness all worth it.
Over a tasty lunch at the Lebanese place down the road Turki and I celebrated the travel smackdown of the season.
We’d done it.
That evening we headed to Jeddah’s posh date shop (think Thornton’s meets Tiffany’s, but with dates – the type you eat!) and bought a beautiful wooden box packed full of dates for Ahmed – a nice Arabic way of saying thank you.
Later we went out to a coffee place down by the water. Turki and I had a jolly old fight about modern architecture and I had a good chuckle at this big concrete block with the cars sticking out of it. Eek!