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Around the World in 80 Days Revisited

Dubai 8 October 2008

Back on a Dhow 
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Back on a Dhow. About to show the Iranian skipper what we got up to twenty years ago.
Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days RevisitedCaptain Khamis greets me with a broad smile. His face has filled out and though he's now Head of Customs, and a husband and father, he wears his responsibilities with the same unhurried ease which I found both comforting and a little worrying twenty years earlier. He takes me to Al Hamriya, the same small cargo dock from which I sailed with Al Shama. Khamis tells me Al Shama would have been tiny by today's standards, with new dhows of two thousand tonnes being built, and horror of horrors, some of them made of fibreglass. But as I stand watching a chain of Indian labourers unloading apples, and the gentle rise and fall of wooden hulls two or three deep at the dockside, I can easily recapture that combination of fear and fascination with which I stepped aboard the boat that was to carry us across to Bombay all those years ago.

Khamis can't give us much help, as he hasn't seen Al Shama since the day we left, but he does offer to find me a similar-sized dhow leaving Dubai, so at least I can relive the past for an hour or two. He wangles me aboard a boat heading for Bandar-e Bushehr in Iran. As on Al Shama the conditions are still basic. The crew live, literally, on top of their cargo, and the only real change I notice is that they have an on-board, rather than outboard, lavatory. At the dockside the crew seem nervous and suspicious, but once away from the authorities they relax, asking me all sorts of questions in severely fractured English. I show them the DVD of the original dhow journey, which they watch with amazement. Though we don't have much time away from Dubai, it's long enough for me to feel strangely at home, whilst at the same time asking myself, as I try to get comfortable on covers of greasy tarpaulin, how I ever survived a week on a boat like this.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days Revisited
  • Chapter: Dubai 8 October 2008
  • Country/sea: United Arab Emirates
  • Place: Dubai
  • Book page no: 234

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