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Pole to Pole

Day 52: Port Said

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThen, slowly, a brown and rusty pontoon is uncoiled from the waterfront by men in boats all shouting at each other. When at last this steel snake reaches the ship, a crowd of salesmen rush along it and stand at the doors, making it almost impossible for anyone to disembark without tripping over a brass tray, a bubble pipe, a copper gong or a pile of cut-price Lacoste T-shirts.

Once the Cairo-bound day-trippers have left, we go with some relief for breakfast, but there isn't any. Even worse is to come. As the porters unload our gear the camera tripod rolls unnoticed into the Mediterranean. Could this be Mercury in retrograde? Should we have made other plans? I think it's just Egypt, where confusion seems an essential part of everyday life. There is no feeling here that life is a series of problems to be solved, rather that there is a human state, which is chaos, and that peace, calm and order is a heavenly state to which, Inshallah, we wretched mortals may one day aspire. Meanwhile six men are staring into the murky depths of the Mediterranean as if some Egyptian Lady of the Lake might suddenly hoist the tripod aloft, whilst six others are improvising something with a fish-hook on the end of a piece of string.

Romany Helmy, our good friend who looked after us on Around the World in 80 Days, suggests that we should go to Customs and get the formalities over with while he supervises the raising of the tripod.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 52
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Port Said
  • Book page no: 115

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