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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 12: 6 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysCheese, olives, omelette and hot rolls for breakfast. My system has been a little fluid recently. In fact everything I've eaten south of Cairo has turned to water. I dislike using drugs, but as I'm apprehensive about public lavatory availability in Jeddah, I've taken recourse to a couple of codeine phosphate. Ron swears by Immodium which, besides binding the bowels, apparently kept him as high as a kite in Cairo for twenty-four hours.

No sooner have we finished breakfast than the dining-room is turned into a makeshift clinic. There is evidently a meningitis epidemic in Saudi and we must all be vaccinated. Soon the Elsinore room is full of children crying and adults screaming their heads off. It's all rather disorganised and I'm sure some people are vaccinated twice. I'm handed a certificate in Arabic which, they tell me, says I'm immune from meningitis until October 1990. As we approach Jeddah, we try to film the Saudi pilot coming aboard, but are asked not to. Later, on the bridge Captain Abbas has words of explanation for what he calls the prickliness of the Saudis. 'They are a desert people - and what do you get from deserts? Not roses . . . cacti.'

Until five years ago, Jeddah, ringed by treacherous shoals, was one of the most dangerous ports to enter. Then, as part of his colossal investment in its improvement, King Faisal commissioned Gray Mackenzie, a British firm, to provide a decent chart. Now it's much easier and Captain Abbas has little time for the pilot, who looks about sixteen and very nervous (as anyone with the expansive bulk and ironic eye of Abbas behind them would be). Pilots, he reckons, are very often a formality. Any ship's master, with up to date charts, could make the approach himself.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 12
  • Date: 6 October
  • Country/sea: Saudi Arabia
  • Place: Jeddah
  • Book page no: 51

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