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Pole to Pole

Day 58: Luxor to Aswan

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleHe remembers once being held up for forty-eight hours.

So we drop anchor beside the noisy construction site of the new two-berth lock which will not be ready until 1993. It's easily the least beautiful stretch of the Nile, and we have seven hours to enjoy it.

As we watch one of the cruise ships negotiating the lock like a fat woman trying to get through a turnstile, our Egyptian pilot - Mohammed Ali Abu el Makeran by name - sits by the wheel, one leg hooked up under a striped djellabah. He has been with Hilton Cruises since they began in 1963, and has the quiet smile of one to whom patience is not a virtue but a way of life. He has fourteen children, he says, and they all live in his house. He tells me their names but apologizes for not being able to remember the last five.

To pass the time, Wahid and Abdul the archaeologist decide to mount an expedition to the temple at Edfu, and to this end the Isis draws up alongside the river wall, where we are immediately besieged by traders. They obviously know what Nile cruise tourists like to buy and it's revealing that most of their wares are for women and consist largely of flashy sequinned dresses - probably good for a night on the Nile but a bit of an embarrassment back in Widnes. If anyone on board shows the faintest glimmer of interest they throw the item up in a plastic bag, shouting 'One pound to look!. One pound to look!' One bag lands with a soft plop in the swimming-pool. No one pays the pound but persistence pays off. One of the Danish ladies has bought a slinky black number with 'Egypt' picked out in gold and Pat from Sheffield has just caught something in blue.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 58
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: The Nile
  • Book page no: 126

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