Ben – So, we got into Egypt, Ben, Jen Cedric & Disco. It was a big faff, but looking back it wasn’t too tricky, and no more hassle than we expected. Customs highlights for me:
- The 2 angry customs men with moustaches (there’s usual only 1 angry moustachiod man at a border in my experience, but coming into Egypt, we got 2!).
- One of the Angry moustachiod men had a “New stamp”, it was the biggest I’d ever seen, most of an A4 sheet. He spent ages proudly inking his lovely new stamp, on a tiny ink pad, and inch square at a time. Then he sidled up to my paper work, spent ages posturing & Straightening, then “Whack”, the ink was down. It was upside down and so faint you could barely see it, but it was down. The process was repeated for page 2, only interrupted for 5 mins whilst mustachiod man found some tipex to scrawl “this way up” on the back.
Once we had our Disco back she got an oil change and a wash ready for our Egypt jaunt, and we met with the Wyndley’s for dinner. The Wyndley’s are a great British couple in a Land Rover we’d chatted to on-line before we set off (they’re heading a similar way at a similar time), and we’d crossed paths in Turkey. They’d arrived on the ferry the day we’d got our paperwork done, so we met for chin wag.
We left Port Said and headed directly south along the Suez Canal (or as close as you can get). I was keen to catch a glimpse of an enormous ship crossing the dessert, and just as we reached the point that road & canal parted, 3 came in to view, an awesome sight.
We reached the edge of Cairo in a few hours, then just got swallowed by the chaos, and finding our camp spot took a few hours more. Camping, in Cairo, yes this is possible. A German guy Sven (who we’d met coming the other way at Iskendrum Dock) gave us details of Isis Garden camp, a sublime spot 2km from the Giza Pyramids where we parked the disco up in Sue & Halal’s garden for a few days and made use of there lush green garden, kitchen area & pool! Just being in the gates from Cairo outside felt like a massive sigh of relief.
We had 3 days in Cairo, main aims:
- Get Sudanese visa sorted. DONE. All pretty easily done in a day, but not cheep, 100USD for the visa, and 450 Egyptian pounds (£45 sterling) for a letter from the British embassy.
- Visit Egyptian Museum. DONE. An incredible collection that’s hard to take in, the quantity & quality of artefacts dating from up to 5000 years ago staggers the mind, especially when you look out the window at the mess the country seems to be in now. Generally there seems little drive to better the place, or do anything constructive, the only income seems to be fleecing tourists at every opportunity, and feelings about the demise of Mubarak and rise of the Muslim Brotherhood seem mixed. The burnt-out carcase of Mubaraks HQ right next door to the museum are a very real reminder of the recent Revolution. The tourist hassle is pretty relentless, but no worse than I remember 15 years ago. It does bug you, and some people hate it, a Dutch couple on motorbikes we met yesterday just couldn’t deal with it and were planning to get out of the country ASAP.
- Visit the Giza Pyramids, the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. DONE, and a great example of the seeming Egyptian lack of pride. We arrived too early and had to wait outside the main gate for an hour or so, the officials were rude, the hassle started right away, and the place was filthy and litter ridden as usual, only the pavement outside “Pizza Hut” was cleaned. This is Egypt’s premier attraction, and that morning the mess around it made me angry. The Pyramids themselves, and the Sphinx are awesome, the scale and age just blow you away.
- General wandering. DONE Done and Done again. As usual we walked too far at the wrong time of day. On day 1 we “did” central Cairo, Day 2 Tahir Square & the Christian quarter, Day 3 the walk from the Pyramids back to our camp, and this was great, straight through proper Cairo, the astounded look on some peoples faces as we wandered down there street was coupled with real friendliness & a desire to help the “lost” Gringo’s, A highlight of Cairo for me.
We are now in Luxor, base for Valley of the kings (Tutankarmun etc), queens and so much of ancient Egypt. We got here via a 3 day drive round the Western Desert, off the usual Tourist trail. The road is generally good or OK tarmac with some dirt sections, but either side is Bush Camping Heaven. Just choose your spot in the Black Desert or the White Desert to pull off the road and into a wilderness where popping your tent up, cooking diner and lying staring at millions of stars is the order of the day, simply the best part of the trip so far, and it will take some beating.
Jen: I’ve not experienced camping in the desert before, it’s hard to explain how fantastic the colours are at sunset and sunrise, the sound of absolute quite and the number of stars in the sky, I am so looking forward to the Sudanese Desert, especially as we’ve heard such lovely things about Sudanese people.
On our circuit of the Western Desert we stopped of at some ancient tombs. The ticket office was pretty hard to find with no signs but fortunately a local pointed us in the right direction We were then directed down the road to what resembled a pile of rubble, we walked up over this, disturbed the people in their little shed (who appeared to call this home) and up to a gated type trap door that lead down some steep steps to a hole in the ground. Underneath were the most amazing tombs with vibrant paintings dating back about 2500 years. There were a number of tombs scattered around the neighbourhood,. we asked the local guides how many visitors they have a day, they said sometimes 2, on a busy day maybe 5! We enjoyed the fact we could see all the amazing history without the hoards of people from the tourist buses.
We also visited an old Islamic city in the dessert, the entire place made of mud-bricks. The proud guide took us up the old minaret (with extremely fragile wooden steps!), the old schoolhouse and was particularly keen to show off the air conditioning (massive vents that had been built into the ceilings)
Next it will be off to see the sights round Luxor, than a days drive to Aswan and the 19 hour Nasser Lake Ferry to Sudan, can’t wait for Sudan.