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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 10: 4 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThere is nowhere to wait except in the minibus, and it's very hot. At the entrance to the dock they are preparing to resurface the road. The preparation consists of two men and a donkey drawing a small tank of liquid tar. One man holds a long leaky rod from which he sprays the tar on the road and his trousers whilst his accomplice shuffles alongside pumping a handle. The effect of the tar is wonderful to behold. Everybody treads in it. One man with green flip-flops discovers he's in it too late and each step he takes his flip-flops grow in size, so after a while he's walking like a huge duck. It affects everybody from the jellaba-ed peasant to the brisk, white-shirted self-important official. Soon all around us the dock is full of people scraping their shoes.

Can this be the same country that built the Pyramids, invented the column, the cornice and the capital?

After three hours of formalities we are aboard the M.V. Qamar El Saudi II ('The Saudi Moon II'). The II has, however, been roughly crossed out and I written in. Her sister ship, The Saudi Moon I, recently ran aground and sank on a reef outside Jeddah. The ship, of 5342 tons, was built in Genoa in 1971 and began life as the Dana Sirena before being sold to a Danish outfit, DFDS Seaways, for North Sea ferry work. Now it's owned by an Egyptian company who bought it off the Saudis. The interior seems to have been left alone, and I find myself looking at a plan of the ship which still features the 'Hamlet Lounge', the 'Tivoli Club', the 'Mermaid Pub' and even the 'Dog's Toilet'.

Up on the bridge, beside an indicator with the ship's speed and direction in Danish - 'Frem', 'Bak', 'Halv' and 'Fuld' - the portly Egyptian captain is bent over charts of Suez harbour published in Taunton, whilst his first officer tends a radar scanner made in Bremen.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 10
  • Date: 4 October
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Suez
  • Book page no: 47

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