A Line in the Sand

Series in which Michael Palin explores nine fascinating countries and their cultures during a trek across the Sahara Desert.

It is the size of the United States with the population of Norfolk, but first Michael has to get there. Gibraltar is the launching pad, and with a 21-gun salute in honour of the Queen's birthday ringing in his ears, he crosses the Straits to Tangier in Morocco.

It is only after pausing in Fez and Marrakech, and scaling the High Atlas, that Michael enters real desert. This is hard, hot country, controlled by the Polisario Front who have been in confrontation with the Moroccans for over 25 years. But this inhospitable land is softened by the warmth shown by the Sahawari people, who guide Michael south to the Mauritanian border. Here he climbs aboard the 'longest train in the world', breaking his journey at Chinguetti.

There is just time for Michael to defeat the local champion at a game of desert draughts, played with stalks and camel droppings, before he gets literally taken over by the 24th Paris-Dakar Rally and its sole surviving British entrant, Dave Hammond from Cirencester.

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