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Pole to Pole

Day 62: Aswan to Wadi Halfa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAt the gates of the Eastern Harbour, beneath an imposing sign announcing the jurisdiction of the 'Aswan Governate, High Dam Ports Authority', an official wearing a 'Port Police' armband attempts to hold the world at bay with a red loudhailer. Cars and trucks piled with crates and packing cases hoot their way past men and women piled with refrigerators, cabinets and bulging roped sacks. Porters in frayed blue cotton jackets stand, confused and vacant, waiting to be shouted into action. A boy with a dustpan and long-handled brush dabs ineffectually around the feet of the throng. There is not a white face to be seen, and even Western clothes are a rare exception in a sea of chadors - veils covering the heads and bodies of the women - and grubby djellabahs, the long wide-sleeved robes of the men.

Slowly, patiently, this mass of people and possessions moves through the Customs building and out towards a buff-hulled 160-foot ferry boat called the Sinai. It's a hard worked, stocky, unglamorous vessel with an apparently unlimited capacity to absorb everyone and their kitchen sinks. The authorities, for their part, have done what they can to make getting aboard as difficult as possible. Passengers must squeeze between unloading trucks on one side, and barbed wire, a link fence and sandbags on the other. Their progress is further impeded by an official of the Port Authority with wavy black hair and a wonderful repertoire of hand gestures who seems unable to communicate on any level less than uncontrolled fury. The slightest thing sets him off, igniting a Fawltyesque rage which quite cheers people up.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 62
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Aswan
  • Book page no: 133

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