Half Past Ten in the Afternoon

Much of this book is a record of the time the author spent between 1965 and 1970 as an English teacher in Aneiza – a provincial town in central Saudi Arabia. In an entertaining series of anecdotes, he describes the daily life and customs of its people, his relations with colleagues and students at the local secondary school, and the events leading up to his ‘removal’ from the town he had come to regard as home, his transfer to Riyadh, and final departure from the country.

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In the 1960s Aneiza was still living partly in the age of Charles Doughty, the 19th-century explorer who stayed there for some weeks in the 1870s, and architecturally the town had changed little over the intervening decades. On the other hand, its mid-20th-century inhabitants were very much aware of what was happening in the wider world and felt deeply involved with events in the region. This involvement is reflected in a chapter on inter-Arab politics, the Six-Day War of June 1967, and its causes and aftermath.

The author’s story does not end in 1970. In ‘Journey to Makkah’ he writes of his transition from agnosticism to Islam and gives us an account of his pilgrimage to Makkah in 1996 in the company of one of his old students from Aneiza.

Finally, in ‘Aneiza Revisited’, he describes the town in its 21st-century incarnation during his return visit in 2011. Despite Aneiza’s material transformation, however, with its concrete and glass buildings and fast food outlets, he found that, despite looking very different, it had still managed to retain its intimate social character and essential congeniality.

Additional information

Dimensions 23.4 × 15.6 cm



May 2014


Hardback, Ebook

5 reviews for Half Past Ten in the Afternoon

  1. BFSA Bulletin

    James Budd has spent a large part of his life as a teacher and translator in various countries of the Gulf region. His main narrative technique is the use of dialogues and conversation pieces put together from memories going back more than forty years, as supplemented by access to letters written to his parents at the time. This technique is effective, and paints a picture which is entirely plausible and realistic.

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  2. Arab News

    In an age when Islam is being defamed and defaced by Muslims themselves, it is gratifying to read James Budd’s touching and sincere account of both his journey to Islam and to Aneiza [which] should be read by anyone wishing to know the truth about a country and a religion which are both still deeply misunderstood.

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  3. Colbert Held, Aramco World Magazine

    The title of this engaging memoir suggests the unfamiliar culture in which the author found hiself when he began five years of teaching English in a remote town in north-central Saudi Arabia in the mid-60s.

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  4. Robin Start, Astene Bulletin

    [Budd’s] experience of undertaking the Hajj and again hisb later journey back to Saudi and return visit to Aneiza are recounted in a most interesting and descriptive manner and this enjoyable book concluded with warm words both for his many Saudi friends and their country.

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  5. Jenny Walker, Studies in Travel Writing

    “a welcome addition to the genre of modern British travel literature connected with Arabia”

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