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Egypt

Travel Journal

03.08.2006, Cyrene, Libya – Solloum, Egypt, 428 km (Part 2)

… the passports stamped and the car was not searched as predicted in all the guide books. We were ready to enter Egypt …
… but Egypt was not ready for us! Actually things got so complicated at the border that I am not sure whether I can recall everything accurately. Things went off well at the beginning with us entering the country, the tourist police saw our nice visa “ah, from Berlin!” and we had our passports back in no time – as a western tourist you pass all the long lines of Libyans, a bit embarrassing but nice. So we were in. Now it was Tembo’s turn. I had read in the guide that the procedure is timely and involves a lot of offices and copies. Little did we know. After a quick inspection of the car “open the door please! What is in that box? Do you have a camera?” we moved on to the “guy with the pen”. His job is to copy the chassis number of the car onto a scrap of paper by rubbing a pencil over the number and of course the paper. Problem no. 1, where is our chassis number. We only knew the number marked on a plate inside the motor. That was unacceptable. Of course. The guy then started the search for our chassis number and eventually found it. By this time we had already moved the car twice. But there was problem no. 2: our chassis number was not, how should a say it, very visible. So when he rubbed the pencil over it, one could not read the number at all. More and more people appeared next to our car discussing wildly. Slowly the sun started setting. A tourist police officer then told us that the car cannot enter the country with such a shameful chassis number. “You go back to Libya. In village behind the border, there is man, who knows problem. He do it for you.” WHAT? That guy was seriously expecting us to turn around and go back to Libya so some dude at a petrol station can chisel in our chassis number. He had gone barking mad. By that time 2 hours were gone. It took another 1.5 hours to convince that officer that by no means we would go back to Libya: “we don’t have a visa, we do not have papers for the car, we do not have a guide, we do not speak Arabic, we have no Libyan money left!” After he realized that we would not leave his border, we moved the car again and the guy with the pen started is pencil rubbing again. The sunset in the desert is quite spectacular, let me tell you that. At some point I started the “crying woman” number, because I thought that might speed up events, and sure enough soon the officer said to Jens “you wont have any problems any more!” Yiha. After some more leafing through Land Rover manuals – “mister, mister, maybe other place for chassis number?” – another official looking guy came and “sealed” our engine with a thread of wire and a little seal. Of course the seal does by no means connect the chassis with the engine, but we were too weak to ask questions. They then disappeared and moments later another guy shows up not accepting our chassis number! Gaaargh! The whole thing started from the beginning. At some point they surrendered and Jens started the “tour d’offices” with his friend the tourist policeman while I watched the car “mister, mister, you come with me!”.
Jens was gone for another 1.5 hours. He never really wanted to tell me what had happened during that time, he mumbled something of many copies, the person they needed was always just out to pray and many offices. During that time I watched people smuggling packages and suitcases over the border, but that is another story. At a point where I saw Jens already in an Egyptian torture prison, he returned and we were allowed to move Tembo to the next building. There we had to wait for our driving permit. By now it was pitch black and the words in the guide book were ringing in my ear: “never drive in Egypt at night. They have a strange system of turning their lights off and then flashing them in your face. It is too dangerous”. OK, it was the darkest night now. What should we do? While we were still waiting for our permit and discussing the night driving problem, a very nice man waiting in the car next to us addressed us and offered us some strong Libyan tea. It turned out that he was Libyan traveling with his 3 children on the way to Alexandria. They also had been here for the past 4 hours. We started chatting and his 2 daughters and one son were very sweet and nice and we felt our spirits rising. Finally our tourist policeman appeared with our permit and our licenses plates – I think he was as relieved as we were that this assignment was over. We were allowed to enter Egypt!
We accepted the offer of our Libyan friend to follow him into the town of Solloum to find a place to stay. True enough on the way to Solloum we encountered the strange light flashing of the Egyptian drivers (the solution to this will follow later!). Our new friend took us to the big police checkpoint outside of Solloum and asked them if we could stay there for the night. “Sure you can stay, this is a big hotel!” We said hearty good-byes to our new friends and set-up our camp and a piece of dirt next to the checkpoint. At last we could relax and laugh about the days events.
So if you are planning to take your car into Egypt, make sure your chassis number is in mint condition! However we have to say that all the officers and people at the border were super nice and really wanted to help us, they were just stuck in their own regulations.

04.08.2006, Solloum, Egypt – Siwa Oasis, Egypt, 503 km

After yesterday’s events it was clear: we needed a vacation. So we decided to go to the Oasis of Siwa, to enjoy the fresh water and the quite oasis life. On the way to Siwa we encountered all aspects of the Egyptian way of driving:

Rule #1 – make use of your car’s horn. Honk it at all times. When overtaking, when being overtaken, when turning, when parking, when going down the street the wrong way, when driving in general
Rule #2 – all means of transport are allowed on the street. Donkeys, donkey carts, cars, sheep, trucks, everything
Rule #3 – all means of transport mentioned under #2 can travel in any direction on any side of the street

The drive to Siwa is quite spectacular, when you see the arid desert with its camels and suddenly you turn a corner and there is water and palm trees and shade.
We settled in a very nice hotel that night (Shali Lodge) to compensate for the lack of sleep and showers.
We had a great dinner at the pool under date palms and we were in peace with Egypt.
The next day we planned to camp in the desert.

05.08.2006 – 08.08.2006, Siwa Oasis, Egypt, 107 km

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast by the pool we tested the ATM (it worked) and visited the tourist information. With some good tips and a half-way decent map of Siwa we started our trip through the oasis. The main means of transportation in the oasis – apart from 4x4 vehicles of all shape and age – are donkeys and donkey carts. Only very few main streets are tarmac, the rest is just a sand pad framed with big date palms. This and the people with their traditional Gallabeyas give Siwa a very foreign but also very relaxed atmosphere. Navigating a big square Land Rover through these narrow alleys while avoiding happily trotting donkeys is quite a challenge (“watch out donkeys have no brakes!”). We checked out the sights and drove through beautiful wild landscape formed by the water and the minerals. In the background one can see the big sand dunes of the “endless sea of sand”. Because of the heat we decided to find an oasis well suitable for swimming. We ended in Abu Shrouf or Ain Sharouf (N29°11.000’ E025°44.630’, across from Hayat Mineral Water Factory), a nice big well, where locals as well as tourists mingle to refresh themselves from the desert heat. We still didn’t know where to stay and sure enough, as always in situations like that, the solution appeared in front of us in the form of Mohamed Zait. Mohamed is a local Siwi and he is THE MAN. “Come to my cousin’s camp, it is in the dunes, it has a pool and there is no one there, just me and the cook.” “We are there dude!” He was taking some Belgium tourists for a day trip to the dunes and he offered us to follow them through the dunes to the camp. We were inseparable from that moment on. However driving completely off-road through the dunes was a bit too much for Tembo (the landscape was spectacular: sand, sand, sand) and we had to give up half-way through. Mohamed left his tourists with the drivers and joined us to guide us back out of the endless sand dunes. If it wasn’t for Mohammed, we would still be in the dunes … although he was the one who got us there in the first place :-). So while driving back out of the dunes to go to the camp the normal way, Mohamed gave Jens a free sand driving lesson, while I was sitting in the back keeping my fingers crossed. Of course everything went well and we reached the camp in time for sunset and a deserved swim in the little pool fed by the camp’s own source.
The camp basically consists of a tiny house (two rooms and a shady terrace), the small pool, the water reservoir for the garden, a garden and sand. Pure bliss. We stayed for 3 nights. During the day the camp was deserted and we enjoyed the pool, the “cook’s” (“tonight we have rice with vegetable”) fresh mint tea and the chats with Mohamed about Land Rovers, sand driving, Siwa, tourists, etc. At night there were always people coming to stay in the camp for the night, so we had company for dinner (Fahti’s famous rice with vegetables) and afterwards we enjoyed the stars and the desert air. It was perfect! After three nights however we had to move on and so we drove back into Siwa, got a hotel room (PNTA hotel) and Tembo got an oil change. We enjoyed a last day at the pool of the PNTA hotel – very, very nice pool, not so nice rooms, very good b-fast. In the evening Mohamed invited us to his house and we were treated with a delicious dinner and I got a henna tattoo on my right hand as a good-bye present. It was very sad to say good-bye to Mohamed and to Siwa. We will come back!
If you are planning to go to Siwa do contact Mohamed Zait. The camp is perfect and he also organizes trips into the desert and to all the sights in Siwa. The desert trips can last for a day or up to ten days, however wished: Mohamed Zait, Siwa Safari Desert, Siwa Oasis Market Square, mob 0103896756, zaitsafari@yahoo.com. BTW, it is possible to travel from Siwa directly to the Oasis of Bahariya, in case you want to skip on Cairo. It is gravel road, but according to locals it is ok.

09.08.2006, Siwa Oasis, Egypt – El Alemain, Egypt, 486 km

The next morning we were back in traveling mode and left Siwa for the coast. The coast around Marsa Matrouh and onwards towards Alexandria is very beautiful. Longingly we looked at the nice hotels hugging the beaches. Unfortunately they were somewhat out of our price range. We drove on to El Alemain to visit the German War Memorial – also we had heard that it was possible to spend the night there. And sure enough we were heartily greeted by Monam Raouf Elmacky, who is the son of the warden, and we were invited to set up our camp for the night. The war memorial is situated on a hill overlooking the sea and the city of El Alemain. The sight is beautifully maintained (flowers and trees everywhere) and we enjoyed the silence and the dignity of the place. The memorial itself is very impressing and the home of 4.500 German soldiers who died fighting a lost battle against the allied troops (23.10.-14.11.1942). Very strange to find something German so far away from home. Monam was taking care that we were settled. He has lived his entire life next to the big memorial and he has never been to Germany. And sure enough he asked us if we could send him an invitation so he could come and visit the country. It is not easy to explain that first of all we won’t be home for a while and second of all one cannot just send an invitation like that. Quite sad actually.
At night Monam was off to a wedding and we enjoyed the stunning view and the full moon rising above El Alemain.

10.08.2006, El Alemain, Egypt – Cairo (Giza), Egypt, 272 km

We took the desert road (toll road) from El Alemain to Cairo, moving from complete emptiness into mad traffic. Coming out of the desert it was quite a change of scenery. We even stopped at a very modern and nice roadside mall to have a very expensive sandwich and cappuccino. It was quite stunning to drive into the city and suddenly the pyramids appeared next to us huge and very present.
Thanks to a very good description we managed to find the famous Salma Camping in Giza without any problems (coming from the pyramids, go down pyramid road towards Cairo, turn right on road to Sakkara, street follows a canal, go on for 4 km to village of Haraniya, turn right at sign “Wissa Wassef”, after canal turn right, the camp is 200m on the left hand side). The camp was deserted – and we had hoped so much to meet some other overlanders in Cairo. We set up camp, Jens went to buy some cold beer (the first one since Italy) and we enjoyed the sunset over the pyramids from the roof rack.

11.08.2006 – 13.08.2006, Cairo (Giza), Egypt 0 km

Our sole intention when coming to Cairo was to extend our Sudanese visa and visit the Pyramids, ok, and have a peak at Cairo. Since we arrived in Giza on a Thursday, the beginning of the Islamic weekend, we had to wait till Sunday to go to the Sudanese embassy and visit Cairo. So we decided to do nothing on Friday (not even leave the campground) and visited the Pyramids on Saturday.
We had been looking at the pyramids from our campground and after studying the different scams that are pulled on tourists at the pyramids in the guide book, readied ourselves to go and check it out from up close. What can I say, it is bad, but it is not as bad as we thought. We were pretty much left in peace, if you don’t count the general “mister, mister, horse, horse” or “mister, mister, camel, camel”. The pyramids are quite stunning if you consider their history, but the huge parking lots in front of each (!) pyramid packed with buses, destroy the picture. Luckily we got there quite early, so we had a head start to the general tourist invasion. We had also the opportunity to witness all the scams described in the guide book pulled on tourists. After the pyramid visit we allowed ourselves a treat and had a late breakfast at the Mena House Hotel with view to the Cheobs Pyramid. And after that treat, we decided to save the money for the taxi and walk back to the camp. 1.5 hours later we reached the camp dirty, thirsty and deaf (too many car horns going off next to our ears). Somewhere on the way during a very rough and dirty piece of road there was a sign saying “Welcome to Egypt, land of Civilization”.
The next day we took a cab into Cairo and sorted out our Sudanese visa extension. That was easier done than we thought. We walked into the embassy, a guy looked at our visa, said “oh, that is easy!” and put our passports on some other guy’s desk. This guy hand-scribbled the extension followed by to stamps and out we were again. It took 15 minutes top and did not even cost anything. After that we had a walk around the modern Cairo, ran for our lives when crossing the streets, got lost, bought yummo pastry and had coffee at nice café in a side street from Midan Talat Harb. Did we like Cairo? We don’t know, it is just a very big and very loud city, where in some areas you can see the charm of the old days. It was ok, and we did not get hassled at all. Quite contrary, when waiting for the embassy to open and looking for a nice café we met a very nice guy – Ismael – who showed us where we could get a cheap and good falafel and who introduced us to the nice café in a side street with old European buildings under trees.
However, we were glad to pack our things and leave Cairo towards the emptiness of the Western Desert.

14.08.2006, Cairo (Giza), Egypt – Bahariya Oasis, 381 km

After a yummo breakfast with a real croissant from the bakery in Cairo we left Cairo and the Pyramids. While driving through the dense traffic in Giza, Jens was singing “living in nightmare city”. The desert begins right behind the pyramids; there one can marvel at the Egyptian housing projects in form of the “6th of October City”. This is a completely artificial city build on sand with universities and partly very upscale housing, however in the middle of the desert, without any given city center. Behind 6th of October City the nothingness began. An endless stone-sand desert. And then suddenly the landscape changes into lush green palm forests and sparkling water. Although one knows that there is an Oasis, it is always a pleasant surprise to actually see it appear out of the heat waves.
We set up camp in Ahmed’s Safari Camp outside of Bawiti. Because of the heat we took it easy and relaxed under our sunsail. Ever since leaving Cairo I had problems with my stomach (the falafel?) and was glad to be out of the sun. Again, we were the only campers, but in the camp were 3 English and two Malaysians staying. Sue, Jason and her son Aaron from Sheffield are also planning to go to Capetown, with public transport. They have traveled all over the world and so we had a great evening telling travel stories and enjoying the company of others. We were sitting Egypt style on the floor on carpets. Suddenly the Malaysian guy said with big round(!) eyes: “there is a big spider behind you” pointing at Susan and Jens. And sure enough behind Jens emerged the biggest spider I had ever seen in my life. It was sand colored and easily the size of a dinner plate (with legs). You could hear it move over the floor. We were all getting up screaming and the spider disappeared into the night (it probably was as scared as we were). We asked a guy from the camp about it and he said, that yes they know this spider and that it is very useful, because it kills the scorpions!!! A scorpion killing spider … Comment from the Malaysian guy “there are scorpions here?” After that incident we were happy to retreat to our roof tent, although we checked with the flashlight before getting in, just to make sure.

15.08.2006, Bahariya Oasis – Dakhla Oasis, 503 km

Originally we had planned to cross into Sudan on the 28th of August. However when waking up that morning, the thought of having to stay in Egypt for another two weeks didn’t feel too appealing and so we decided to move on, so we could reach the Sudan ferry on the 21st from Aswan. That would mean that we had to shorten our stay in the Western Desert, but since my stomach was still in uproar and the heat was merciless, we decided to go for it.
I called Mr. Salah from the Wadi Nile Navigation Office in Aswan and made a reservation for us and Tembo. When he quoted the prices, we were quite shocked, but we still went for the first class cabin (in retrospect the best decision ever). I had read so much about Mr. Salah on traveler websites that I could hardly believe that I had actually talked to him and that we were actually going to Sudan! How exciting!
Mr. Salah wanted to see us on Saturday at 9:30 in his office in Aswan. So we had to speed up. Our goal for today was the Oasis of Dakhla.
After filling up on diesel and water we started in the heat of the day our tour de police checkpoints. In the end we stopped counting but on these 500km we were easily slowed down by more than 15 checkpoints. Mostly at the beginning and at the end of every bigger village. At one point one could already see the next checkpoint, 300m away. It always has the same routine: “Welcome”, “Where you come from?”, “Do you speak Arabic?” “No?, Why not?”, “Alemaniya? Two? Very good!”. Sometimes extended by “Where you go?” At these checkpoints is always one guy without uniform, who comes to your car, when you already answered all the questions and who then asks the same questions again. It is quite interesting how many people can appear out of these tiny police houses. In the end we usually had 5-6 guys around us asking questions and looking at Tembo. It was annoying to be slowed down by these procedures, waiting in the baking sun, however we were always well treated and they were all very friendly.
Leaving Bahariya one enters the Black Desert and sure enough the landscape is black and sinister, but very beautiful. For contrast the Black Desert is followed by the White Desert. White chalk covers the ground and the wind and water have shaped bizarre chalk formations and pinnacles. A very beautiful area. Unfortunately there was a hot wind blowing and the air was full of white dust. The wind heated the air that one could hardly leave the car – it felt like having a blow-dryer held up close to your face. Before the Oasis of Dakhla one can see to the west large sand dunes rising from the desert ground. They are the beginning of the Sahara stretching out to Libya and beyond.
After the day’s heat, we were glad to enter Dakhla with its beautiful palm trees and ploughed fields and donkey carts. Unfortunately we could not find the camp where we wanted to stay at – the signs always ended at the important intersections and after driving through sand dunes in pitch darkness, we decided to give up and take a hotel room. The hotel was ok and it had a properly working shower. You might laugh at that, but Egypt really has a problem with plumbing!! We hardly saw one functioning faucet or shower, where the water actually poured from the right opening. With the shower working, I was so blinded that I did not check the bathroom door before I closed it. And of course, like any proper Egyptian door, it did not open again. So Jens and I were inside the bathroom, stark-naked, without towels and only equipped with shampoo and shower gel and the door did not open. After a moment of panic, we dismantled the bathroom mirror and used the hook from the wall to scrape our way back to freedom. With a lot of anger and brutal force Jens managed to open the door. Puh! We just got out in time for our dinner, while Jens was still cursing fluently about Egyptian builders.

16.08.2006, Dakhla Oasis, Egypt – Luxor, Egypt, 540 km

This day we had an early start with the goal to reach Luxor in time for a swim and a decent meal. The road from Dakhla to Luxor is again a desert “highway” crossing east to the futile Nile valley. And again the road is lined with police checkpoints. This time we were followed by a police car for roughly 80km into the city of Kharga, but they didn’t want money for it and so we let them follow us. When we stopped for diesel, they also stopped and I had the following conversation with one of the officers:

Policeman: “You go to Luxor today?”
Sandy: “Yes!”
Policeman: “Today?”
Sandy: “Yes, today!”
Policeman: “Really?”
Sandy: Yes!”
Policeman: “No stopping in Kharga?”
Sandy: No!”
Policeman: “Luxor, today?”
Gaaaargh!

Anyway, after Kharga they turned around and we were left to ourselves to cross the very boring high plateau to Luxor. The travel guide warned that the area is so boring that one couldn’t even call it landscape anymore. Well, it is true. After some more police checkpoints we left the desert and descended to the Nile Valley. It is a pleasant drive to Luxor along a canal, where it seems that people still live like in former times. We managed to find Luxor and the much quoted Rezeiky Camp in Luxor without any problems and were glad when the big iron doors of the camp closed behind us shutting out the tourist hunting business people of Luxor. The camp is great: it has a useable pool, shady trees and excellent food. Bliss.
And sure enough there was a South African Land Rover packed to the rim with traveling gear. The first since we started our journey. After setting up camp we introduced ourselves to the owners Wolfgang and Bangveta. They have been traveling through Africa for the past 5 years and were now on the way to Europe. Wolfgang is a retired German and Bangveta is from Zambia. Unfortunately Wolfgang had suffered a stroke a couple of days ago – when driving from Aswan to Luxor. His right leg and arm had suffered from the stroke and he cannot drive the car anymore. To be able to leave the car in Egypt and fly to Germany for treatment, the permit for the car needs to be extended and that can only be done in Aswan or in Cairo and only with the car present. So they were stuck in Luxor. We agreed right away to drive the car down to Aswan with them, when we leave for Aswan on Friday. Jens will be driving Tembo and I will drive Wolfgang’s Landy.

17.08.2006, Luxor, Egypt, 0 km

One day in Luxor and we did not leave the camp. Yes, we did not look at any of the sights. Shame on us, but I was still fighting my stomach problems and Jens had joined me with it and we did not feel like facing the “taxi, taxi, felluca, felluca, bazaar, bazaar” shouts. So we just hung at the pool, read and chatted with Wolfgang.

18.08.2006, Luxor, Egypt – Aswan, Egypt, 214 km

We decided to take the 3pm convoy to Aswan. So we had ample time to pack our things, update the webpage and repack our bags. We made a short excursion into town to get some money and were put off by the constant “mister, mister, where you from, come see bazaar!” It is so annoying and actually a reason not to recommend Luxor to anyone – apart from the Rezeiky Camp, of course.
Shortly before 3 we left the camp for our trip to Aswan, Wolfgang and me in his Landy and Jens and Bangveta in Tembo. When we got the convoy meeting point at 5 to 3 they told us we were late and we should try to catch the convoy outside Luxor. Sure enough they waited for us and we could start the trip together with some mini busses and a motley crew of police cars howling their alarm. Being in the convoy saved us from stopping at police checkpoints – nice! So we had the time to enjoy the beautiful Nile valley and the stunning Nile. It is wide, framed with palm trees and silent feluccas travel on it.
We got into Aswan in time for dinner, which we enjoyed in a restaurant directly on the Nile.
Our hotel room (New Abu Simble) did not exactly leave us screaming with joy and we spent a very hot night in a very loud and sticky room.

19.08.2006 – 20.08.2006, Aswan, Egypt, 0 km

The following two days were amiably spent in Aswan, which we find to be the nicest city in Egypt, apart from Siwa. We treated ourselves to a nice hotel room, in a nice hotel (Merhaba Palace), with perfect view to the Nile – even when taking a shower. The hotel also had a pool to escape from the hot desert wind and a relaxing roof terrace. So you know where we spent our time in Aswan.
Apart from these pleasures, we met Mr. Salah and arranged our ferry tickets and confirmed the space for Tembo. After the business was done, we had some tea with Mr. Salah and enjoyed a nice conversation.
For Tembo all we had to do was return the licenses plates and the permit and receive some piece of paper we need for customs at the port. So we took off to the traffic police to get that done right away. Mr. Salah warned us only to go to the officers and not to the civil workers if we wanted to get this task done and he advised to enter the office from the back, not from the front. We did as we were told and walked directly into the office of the chief in charge and held up our licenses plates. Annoyed by us standing in his office he got someone to work on our problem right away. And indeed, not 10 minutes later, we got rid of the plates and were the owners of a piece of paper with some scribbles on. With these papers we drove back to Mr. Salah, who was impressed by the speed and found the paper to be perfect. All the rest would then be done at the ferry on the day of departure. With that done we were free to enjoy the rest of our stay in Aswan.
For sunset we drove up to the Nubian House (north of the Nubian Museum) and enjoyed the view over the Nile and Aswan – highly recommended!
We also met Mithat, who is an institution with western travelers coming into Sudan and was highly recommended to us. We arranged to meet his brother Mazar in Wadi Halfa who will be helping us with getting Tembo back on track. Mithat his traveling with his bike and will participate in a Cairo to Cape bike ralley starting in January.
After a final dinner with Wolfgang and Bangveta we were getting ready for our Sudan adventure, not knowing that we would have an Aswan ferry port adventure first!

21.08.2006, Aswan, Egypt – Ferry, 0 km

It was our 7th wedding anniversary and the day of our departure from Egypt. We got to the port at the Aswan High Dam on the Lake Nassr or Lake Nubia, as the Sudanese say, at 9:30 am. There was already buzzing activity at the port with people everywhere and trucks loaded to the sky with goods. Soon the gates opened and with the help of Mr. Salah we entered, avoided to be searched and went through the exit procedures. The Carnet de Passage got stamped (70 EGP) and no one cared for the chassis number anymore – of course! We showed our tickets and returned to Tembo and then the BIG WAITING started. It is hard to put the rest of the day into a structured form – since there was no structure. I will try however. Roughly the day (and it was a long day) could be divided into 6 stages:

#1 – “good hopes, no worries yet” stage
#2 – “irritation, how should this work out” stage
#3 – “despair” stage
#4 – “indifference” stage
#5 – “panic” stage
#6 – “anger” stage

And through all these 6 stages it was very interesting to see how we could not rid ourselves of being #1st German and #2nd Business Consultants. We should have moved from stage #1 directly into stage #4 – but we couldn’t :-).
Stage #1:
Around noon Mr. Salah showed us the place Tembo’s space on the cargo ship. It was basically the spot between the captain’s cabin and the cargo. It had exactly the space for one Land Rover. The sharp edges that cut many other tires, as we were told, seemed to be the locks of deck-lukes on the ship. We told the captain that he should take care of that and that he has to pay for any damaged tire (yeah, as if, but we said it anyway to sound professional). Then we had a look at our first class cabin on the ship. It was quite difficult to get on and to walk around as there were so many people carrying huge packages on board, shouting and sweating. Our cabin turned out to be ok and we were really happy to have chosen 1st class – 1st class means that you have your own cabin, your own bed, get a meal and that you can close the door and open a window. 2nd class basically implies being on the ship – no seat, no bed, no nothing.
Stage #2:
When we got back to Tembo, who was parked right in the middle of the port de-loading action, stage #2 was about to start. There were roughly 100 men more or less dressed in blue to carry the loads from the trucks on their backs onto the ships. Tembo’s space on the cargo ship was still needed as a passage way over to the ferry. The sun was burning merciless and we were asked for water several times as for the workers it was not provided. The principle was easy: loaded trucks arrive, honk, drive as near to the boat as possible and the workers start to throw the load from the truck onto the ground. Others eventually (after 5 min up to 4 hrs later) pick it up and carry it onto the ship. New trucks arrive and block everything. Of course it was impossible now for the unloaded trucks to leave the de-loading zone which resulted in more honking, shouting and even fistfights. We watched this from a little distance and simply couldn’t imagine how all of this should be done by the end of the day, so that we can get Tembo on the cargo ship and ourselves onto the ferry.
Stages #3 & #4:
That’s how got to stages 3 and 4. After a short moment of frustration and irritation, we decided not to worry about it all. We couldn’t’ change anything anyways. With up to 60°C in the sun, we took to surviving the day by drinking water and not moving. However, we were impressed by the energy and body power those poor carriers showed. It was just so badly organized. In my head I reorganized the entire logistical processes of the Aswan port. Wouldn’t it been so hot, I would have made a little PowerPoint presentation … As to how the cargo ship was loaded, please refer to the pictures from Sudan (highlights).
Stage #5:
By the time stage 5 kicked into action it was little after 6 pm (we got to the harbor at 9.30 am). Suddenly the ferry gave a loud noise and everyone started pointing at us saying: “go go go, the ferry leaves!” Tembo was still safe and sound on the ground waiting to be driven onto the cargo ship and the last trucks were still parked in front of the ship packed to the rim with goods. So I called Mr. Salah, who ensured us that the ferry would not leave without us … oh well.
Stage #6:
Finally (and I mean finally) we were told to start the engine and to approach the ship. At that point the cargo ship was loaded so much that the height from mole to ship had a difference from more than 1 meter…even a Land Rover should not attempt to do this. That meant that the ship had to be moved roundabout 5 meters back to a lower part of the mole. Sounds easy but can be difficult when you loosen the ropes from the ship and just let it fall so that it ends up in the turning screw of the ship. So, we had to wait until some guys diving with a kitchen knife managed to loosen the rope from the screw (einmal mit Profis arbeiten!). All the other passengers on the ferry were standing on the upper deck watching and waiting. After another hour we finally could drive Tembo onto the pontoon. We took our sleeping stuff out and ran for the ferry which immediately started to disembark. WE MADE IT and saw Tembo disappear into the sunset of Aswan. We were really sad to leave him behind.

We had a big gulp from the whisky bottle and didn’t leave our cabin until the next morning! Even our free dinner we had while sitting at the tiny window, overlooking the darkening lake. Sudan: here we come!



Summary Egypt:

Country:
We were a bit worried about Egypt because of all the tourist hunting stories, but it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Apart from the obvious tourist attractions the Egyptians are very nice and helpful and we always felt welcome and left in peace. In Cairo we tried to look as untouristy as possible and that definitely paid off. The landscape is ever changing, the desert oasis of Siwa and the Nile valley being the highlights.

Costs: Egypt is cheap, cheap, cheap. The entry fees for the car and the shipping of the car to Sudan being the most expensive elements. Camping cost an average of 25 EP and diesel and food are also cheap – apart from beer: 1L cost roughly 10 EP, but it is worth it. Entry to the Giza pyramids costs 40 EP pp. THe shiping of the car to Wadi Halfa costs 2.452 EP, the first class ticket for the ferry cost roughly 390 EP pp.

Driving: driving in Egypt is entire madness (see description in travel journal), but once you get the hang of it, it is actually fun – you need a working horn though. In Cairo we used taxis and did not take Tembo downtown. In the countryside everything is more relaxed and one gets only slowed down by police checkpoints. The streets are mostly in a very good condition. The road signs along the coast and the Nile valley are also in Latin, however outside Giza towards the Western Desert all signs are in Arabic – if there are any signs at all.

Oh, and finally, why do Egyptians turn off their lights at night and flash them into your face when they see you approach (according to Mohamed): with this ritual the driver of the car signals that he is indeed NOT asleep and that he has seen you approach and will not crush into you. Well, isn’t that nice.



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Highlights

Meeting Mohamed/ Mohamed kennen lernen 
Desert Camping/ Wüsten Campen 
Siwa Oasis 
Meeting the Sphinx/ Die Sphinx in echt  
Camping on ancient battle grounds/ Übernachtung auf alten Kriegsschauplätzen  
The Nile at Aswan/ Der Nil bei Assuan  
Aswan Port/ Assuan Hafen 
Cold Stella beer/ Kaltes Stella Bier 


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Accomodation

Solloum, next to police checkpoint, N31°30.854' E25°12.127'
Shali Lodge Hotel, Siwa
Desert Camp, outside Siwa, N29 09.218 E25 33.790
PNTA Hotel, Siwa, N29 12.176 E25 31.524
German war memorial, El Alemain, N30 53.365 E28 52.512
Salma Camping, Giza, N29 58.170 E31 10.448
Ahmed's Safari Camp, Bahariya Oasis, N28 20.860 E28 49.347
Mebarez Hotel, Dakhla Oasis, N25 29.968 E28 58.439
Rezeiky Camp, Luxor, N25 42.684 E32 38.909
New Abu Simbel, Aswan
Merhaba Palace, Aswan
First Class Cabin, Wadi Halfa Ferry


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