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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 8: 2 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThe film is a political thriller called Inar Gahined ('Hellfire') and it's being shot in a Safeway supermarket in the tidy, tree-shaded Zamalek area. Foreign diplomats live here, so it's well tended, well guarded, and dotted with twee boutiques with names like 'Mix 'n Match' and 'Genuine'.

It transpires that my contact is Egypt's leading lighting cameraman and I'm treated royally, meeting the stars and, without any audition, being given the part of Third Shopper In China Department. My six steps to the left as the gang pass by are executed so successfully that I am up-graded to the more demanding Man In Lift. The terrorists have a gritty scene here in which their recriminations are cut short by the arrival of the elevator, whose doors slide open to reveal yours truly. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing but I stare hard at the gang leader as I walk past him and he seems very pleased.

I talk to him afterwards. His real name is Noor-el-Sherif and he is very big in Egypt - where they make over sixty films a year. He admits only about six of these are any good and blames much of the blandness on the censorship that is necessary to make pictures saleable in the rest of the Arab world. I ask him what sort of things they censor.

'Sex, politics, religion . . . ' he replies gloomily. 'That's all.'
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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: 41

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