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Pole to Pole

Day 52: Port Said

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe tripod is retrieved half an hour later by a diver whom Romany got out of bed, but it is another seven hours before Nigel, Fraser, Patti and Basil are cleared to leave Customs. Every single item on their lists is checked and double-checked, and in some cases triple-checked, during which time they are not allowed beyond the gates of the port. There are several problems. The Customs officials have never had to deal with a foreign film crew before. Port Said is a duty-free zone, and they cannot believe that we are not here to take advantage of this. But what seems to throw them completely, what they simply cannot comprehend, is that we are leaving the country, by land, through the Sudan. It appears to be quite beyond belief that anyone would want to do such a thing.

Those of us not directly responsible for the equipment can only wait, guiltily, at the Helnan Port Said Hotel, which is run, ironically, by a Scandinavian company.

In its grounds and along the Mediterranean shoreline Egyptian holidaymakers are engaged in frantic physical activity - running, judo, soccer, tennis and what appear to be aerobic classes. The screams of children playing in the pool mingle oddly with the wailing chant of the call to prayer.

The day's filming is wrecked by the long wait in Customs and for the crew the last straw is that all the restaurants in Port Said are dry, the work of a zealously Islamic mayor.

There are also mixed opinions over what it is safe to eat. Should we eat the salad, which looks appetizing but which my medical bible - Richard Dawood's How to Stay Healthy Abroad - does not recommend in Africa? Or the crayfish from the Med? In the end I eat both, because I'm terribly hungry.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 52
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Port Said
  • Book page no: 116

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  • Around the World in 80 Days