December 1st, 2021

Arabian Nights

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN heads to Jeddah for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2021 season, to take place this weekend on the city’s Corniche Circuit.

The streets of Jeddah have been busy places for hundreds of years: pilgrims on their Hajj would transit through this gateway to Mecca, filling the city with foreign accents and colours of faraway lands and turning this part of Hejaz, languidly laying on the shores of the Red Sea, into one of the most bustling and cosmopolitan of the whole Kingdom. After sunset, under the light of stars and torches, the haggling of the markets would stop and different sounds, voices and music would fill the air of those long Arabian nights. The stories of that time still echo through the labyrinthine streets of the old town, and so do the influences of the many people who ruled this city – the Turks, the Wahabis and many more in past times.

Those streets are busy and lively today, with vibrant souqs framed by coral-coloured houses, the old palatial abodes of merchants, where the local and the foreign meet: those streets are going to be even busier still, as the merchants of speed come to town. Like a modern-day caravan, the circus of Formula One will bring its eclectic mix of tongues, colours and wares – and while in the past the riches on offer were precious metals and spices, today’s prizes are made of trophies and points.

After sunset, no longer under the stars but in the light of thousands of floodlights, the city’s waterfront will fill up with the sound of engines. Not unlike the merchants of old, these outsiders will strut and barter, some coming away winners, some losers, on a hot Arabian night. It’s a story as old as the sand of the desert: a modern take on the tales that have been shared for centuries, here in Jeddah.