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    ROADS & KINGDOMS - 31 MAY 2013

    On a cold weekend this winter, I flew to Edinburgh for what turned out to be a more posh wedding than I expected. The bride and groom were diplomats; we’d met them in Riyadh back in 2008, treasuring every chance we had to drink their imported diplomatic hooch, and in general enjoyed their well-informed, widely read companionship. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it was almost too easy to detect class, lumped as we were into a broad category of non-Saudis. But visiting them for nuptials in the United Kingdom, I found such matters to be more finely tuned, at a register I couldn’t handle, and having failed to wear the proper costume, or perhaps to adequately trim my beard, I stood before St. Giles Cathedral—as grand as St. Patrick’s in New York City—while a scowling guard in a skirt blocked my path with a “stop there” gesture. So I stood in the rain, assuring him I was invited, and when he finally relented, I confronted pew after pew of blond hair and blue eyes, men taller than I, all these centuries of nutrition and good breeding, and it became all but certain that I’d drink too much at the 15th-century manor and risk remembering nothing of how I got home.

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