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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 7: 1 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysI'm now on the threshold of an uncompromisingly unfamiliar world. Everything is different, from the minarets on the dusty sky-line of Alexandria to the blatantly shady behaviour of a small unmarked boat which sidles up on our stern port side, collects a pack of 200 Marlboros thrown down by one of the crew, secretes it and stands off for a while before returning for a few more goodies, all of which are swiftly stowed under the steering column in the wheel house.

Trying to sense a little of what drew Alexander the Great, Caesar and Napoleon to this place I shuffle down the gangplank, barking my shins on a Magimix. I'm met by a very charming lady in white who checks my passport and for the first time I hear that soft, courteous Egyptian response to foreigners, 'Welcome'.

The German bikers are wheeling their monstrous machines from the ship's hold, a couple of middle-aged dock-workers pass by holding hands and a shabby shuffling figure in loose plimsolls dolefully works the crowd proffering a bucketful of Coca Colas on ice.

Once on Egyptian soil, I feel a curious surge of adrenaline, as if I've escaped from five days in cotton wool. There'll be no such thing as normal for quite a while now. As if to underline this I find myself in a fiacre, which is an open horse-drawn cab, being galloped out of the port and into the hurtling traffic. A gaggle of Egyptians, sipping tea, have presumably been told what the camera's there for.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 7
  • Date: 1 October
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Alexandria
  • Book page no: 36

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