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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 8: 2 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysSunday morning in Cairo.

I wake with a greater than usual feeling of sensory dislocation. Where am I and what is the horrendous noise? Most of it can be attributed to my air-conditioning unit which changed gear during the night with a splintering crack that sounded as if someone were trying to batter the door down.

I silence the air conditioner and throw open the windows only to find there's even more noise outside. I now know why they had laughed at me in reception when I'd asked for a quiet room.

'In Cairo!'

I suppose it's sheer weight of numbers. There are over 10 million people living in Greater Cairo and a further million or more unrecorded refugees and squatters - many of them living in the eerily beautiful City of the Dead, a huge and ancient cemetery. I passed by it with fascination, but on enquiry found that cameras are not allowed inside, so, with a day to kill before my next boat connection from Suez, Passepartout and I take up the invitation of a man I met in the bar last night to visit an Egyptian movie set. Crossing the Nile by the Tahir bridge I have my first sight of the more prosperous side of the metropolis. Hilton, Sheraton and Meridien hotels, skyscraper office blocks. From here Cairo could be anywhere in the world and I'm glad to be at the eccentric Windsor, in the as yet unsmoothed heart of the city.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 8
  • Date: 2 October
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Cairo
  • Book page no: 40

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