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Pole to Pole

Day 61: Aswan

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe are on our way out of Egypt at last. From tomorrow we shall cease for a while to be tourists and become travellers. Soon we shall exchange the cosseted comforts of Cataract Hotels and Hilton Cruises for the uncertainties of a public ferry into a country which my guide-book describes as 'fraught with political turmoil, economic chaos, civil war, drought, famine, disease and refugee crisis . . . '

We travel in hope rather than certainty, having met people who have waited six weeks for the ferry into Sudan. We drive one last time along the Corniche, past acacia trees in bloom, and the Police Rowing Club, and the intriguing sign 'Pedaloos for hire', out of the town and along the first dam ever laid across the Nile, by the British, in 1902.

The British dam looks like a toy now, compared with the Soviet-built monster which replaced it three and a half miles upstream, creating Lake Nasser which stretches over 300 miles, into the Sudan. The approach to the High Dam is beneath a web of overhead power lines, past soaring concrete monuments to Soviet-Egyptian co-operation, and all the trappings of modern military security - radar, anti-aircraft guns, camouflaged helicopters, silos, dug-outs, bunkers and early warning systems. This could be described as overkill, but, as someone chillingly pointed out, the dam at Aswan is 650 feet higher than Cairo and Alexandria, and if it were to burst Egypt would be virtually wiped out.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 61
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Aswan
  • Book page no: 132

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RELATED LINKS

  • Egypt
  • Day 7 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
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  • Day 9 
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