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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 18: 12 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysOn the wall above the unsmiling immigration officers are photos of the two sheiks of Dubai, who look worldly and cunning, with long, narrow noses and hard eyes. Clem says they live near Newmarket.

10.20. At last our dhow casts off. As we turn slowly out into the harbour I feel that regret at leaving which I've felt everywhere so far (with the exception of Riyadh and Qatar). Travellers depend so much on people, and have to place enormous trust in them. Strangers become friends quickly, but all too briefly, and I'm sorry to see Kamis with his ready smile and podgy, sweating face grow smaller on the dockside. Even our hard-bitten taxi drivers are waving.

We are flying the Indian red ensign, and a Moslem pennant with a crescent moon against a green background, and from the prow of the ship hangs a garland of flowers and paper decorations, an offering to the gods for a safe passage.

No sooner are we out of the harbour than I am offered a glass of tea - of the kind Indians favour with evaporated milk and lots of sugar - by a burly man in a baseball hat who introduces himself as Osman. The rest of the crew, all Indians, Gujaratis from north of Bombay, cluster round me as I drink. None of them has more than a few words of English, but all insist on giving me their names, and they watch closely as I write them down, correcting my spelling punctiliously and sometimes gently removing my notebook and writing in it themselves. There are eighteen of them, all from the same village, ranging in age from the two teenage cabin boys, Anwar and Hassan, to the venerable elders like Deyji Ramji, the navigator, who looks, in his brown corduroy cap, like some Oxford poetry don, and Kasim with the craggy face, beady eyes and stubbly grey beard of the Old Man of The Sea. In fact there is a vaguely theatrical Arabian Nights air to the whole outfit. With their torn shirts and carefully patched trousers, shining teeth and wide smiles, they look like the chorus from a Christmas panto.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 18
  • Date: 12 October
  • Country/sea: United Arab Emirates
  • Place: Dubai
  • Book page no: 65

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