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Pole to Pole

Day 55: Cairo to Luxor

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleBy now it's beginning to sound like a bingo session, as passers-by helpfully shout numbers in my general direction. Fortunately a passageway is marked '8, 9, 10, 11', so I take that and am met at the other end by an extremely helpful and courteous railway official: 'Yes . . . it is Number Eight, sir'.

The train for Luxor leaves at half-past seven, from Platform Ten.

The sleeping-cars on the train are run by the Wagons-Lits company and are modern and well equipped, with air-conditioning, carpets, towels, coathangers, and venetian blinds. I'm served an airline meal on a tray and while Joseph, the coach steward, makes up my bed, I wander down to the bar. I had heard how badly the Gulf War had affected tourism in Egypt, and the sight of the barman quite alone seems to suggest things have not recovered. Andy and Bridget, an English couple on honeymoon, are the only others who come in. They couldn't take any more of Cairo. Apart from finding 'a cockroach as big as a cat' on her bed, Bridget professed herself disillusioned with the way friendship never seemed innocent, 'it always led to a shop'.

After a drink together I wish them bon voyage and they ask me if I'm going anywhere beyond Luxor.

I nod and try to reply as nonchalantly as possible, 'The South Pole'.

Not for the first time do I notice what a conversation killer this is.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 55
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Cairo
  • Book page no: 120

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