“Alors, qu'est-ce que vous êtes, Monsieur?”
“Je suis homme.”
“Je comprends. Touriste.”
Even “voyageur” is obsolete; and with reason: the word has a complimentary air. The traveller of old was one who went in search of knowledge and whom the indigènes were proud to entertain with their local interests. In Europe this attitude of reciprocal appreciation has long evaporated. But there at least the “tourist” is no longer a phenomenon. He is part of the landscape, and in nine cases out of ten has little money to spend beyond what he has paid for his tour. Here, his is still an aberration. If you can come from London to Syria on business, you must be rich. If you can come so far without business, you must be very rich. No one cares if you like the place, hate it, or why. You are simply a tourist, as a skunk is a skunk, a parasitic variation of the human species which exists to be tapped like a milch cow or a gum tree.
At the turnstile, that final outrage, a palsied dotard took ten minutes to write out each ticket. After which we escaped from these trivialities into the glory of Antiquity.
08 November 2010
Quote of the day: a tourist is a tourist as a skunk is a skunk
From Robert Byron's The Road to Oxiana: