Kuwait was my first Arab country, 1977. I was with a trio, flying in from India. We couldn't get a bus to Basra, or any information: most business were closed, following the death of a sheik. We shared a taxi to the border. Formalities were slow (we hadn't thought to offer a bribe). We shared another taxi to Basra. In town, he drove around looking for a pedestrian who could translate English. That was my first experience of Muslim/Arab hospitality. We were taken to the famous Hotel Shatt al Arab. Next day we caught a train to Baghdad. It was blocked for 8 h by a derailment ahead. We were taken in hand by a group of uni students, who taught us Arab numerals and some key words. Later we were hosted to tea in a railway-depot office. I also photographed a Holden taxi: left-hand drive, with Arabic numberplates. The through train to Turkey wasn't running (a border dispute with Syria). We found a long distance bus which would cross to Turkey east of Syria. That was my first experience of watching tv in a bus, as we sped over the desert. At the border, we were the only passengers not smuggling tea. On a much later holiday, I was passing from Jordan though Syria, and watched a train leave for Baghdad. My 1977 trip had been planned for Iran, but it was off limits. Into this new era, Iraq was off limits, but Iran was available (and I've been).
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