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Pole to Pole

Day 53: Port Said to Cairo

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAt the outskirts of the city there is a cheerful sign above the road: 'Have Nice Trip'. It is here that our troubles begin.

We are turned back at the Customs barrier and sent along a dusty carriageway to an address in the suburbs of Port Said. This turns out to be another Customs area, for buses only. As soon as our minibus pulls up outside salesmen cluster round brandishing chocolate, sunglasses, coffee cups, razor blades, make-up, watches and even plastic rattles. We sit and wait. The temperature is climbing up towards 100 Fahrenheit. Eventually we are let through into a courtyard and after some deliberation asked to unload all our equipment for examination. Romany is doing his best to prevail upon the officer in charge, telling him we have been through all this for seven hours yesterday and he has the paperwork to prove it. After an hour we are allowed to repack our bus and leave. As the imperious senior officer barks orders at the soldiers lounging by the gate, I notice his right hand is playing with a string of beads. We pull out into the road. A man supporting himself on a crutch toils by. He has a child on his back.

Egypt offers no gradual assimilation into Africa, no comfortable cultural transition. The strangeness of everything begins at the coast and doesn't let up.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 53
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Port Said
  • Book page no: 117

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