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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 9: 3 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThe statue of Rameses II, discovered in Memphis in 1851 by French archaeologists, stands between two flyovers in front of the Rameses Station, moving no faster than we are. On my left is the railway line to Alex, which brought me in to the city what seems an impossibly long time ago, but is, in fact, less than two days. As if there isn't enough noise the driver flicks a cassette into his machine and loud Egyptian pop music fills the taxi. 'This was a very good song for Al Amkansoun,' he tells me. 'She was very famous lady from fifteen years ago; she now very famous in Arab. More than 100 million population like to hear this song.'

We've been going now about twenty-five minutes, the heat, noise and smell of fumes still intense, but the roads have at last thinned out as we pass through Heliopolis. Lots of barracks around here, many soldiers. Howitzers and rockets are proudly displayed outside.

Suddenly we're on the edge of the desert, 96 per cent of Egypt's land surface, and mile upon mile of tips. All Cairo's rubbish; old furniture, rubble, twisted car wrecks, some of them burning. It seems to be an open dump. Pass a huge articulated truck which has swerved and overturned on the side of the road. The cab looks completely smashed in, and two men helplessly wander around the sacks of cement which lie scattered across the road.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 9
  • Date: 3 October
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Cairo
  • Book page no: 44

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