Egypt Sunday, 27 April 2008


That's a typical Egyptian greeting, which is closely followed by a rapid fire of insistence to buy any thing or service you could imagine not requiring.

Ironically at the Egyptian border of Salloum in the North West of the country I was unable to solicit the services of such an Egyptian entrepreneur, well not instantly. This border crossing was supposedly the most complicated I would encounter on my entire trip, and it exceeded even those expectations. A brief summary of the objectives of this border are as follows:

  • Validate pre-arranged visa & get passport stamped
  • Get carnet book checked against chassis number
  • Have vehicle emissions checked, and chassis number traced onto a piece of paper
  • Buy 3rd party insurance
  • Get carnet validated & stamped
  • Get 'mini carnet' & Egyptian drivers license (plastic card)
  • Rental & attachment of Egyptian number plates
  • Final check of passport and processed paperwork
In addition (and crucial to ensuring the end-to-end process took 4.5 hours) was that each of the above items takes place in a different building well spread apart, and more importantly after each step one must visit a photocopying office to make duplicates of each, as a pre-requisite for the next step. After step three I managed to employ the services of a local entrepreneur who helped me through each of the steps slightly quicker than I could have done myself.

Then, after having several hundred Gippo pounds liberated from my wallet I pushed through to my overnight destination of Marsa Matruh. It was to be my longest riding day so far given the stretch in Libya to get to the border. I pushed for this town because I had fond memories of visiting it many years ago, and it was were my Grandfather (Jackson) was stationed in WWII.

In the morning I rode further along the coast to Alexandria and then into the mayhem of Cairo, where I reckon the traffic is slower moving than it was when they built the pyramids. I spent a few days in Cairo arranging my Sudanese visa (only place it can be obtained) & servicing my bike. I took my bike to a back-street mechanic named Mohammed Anwar, who had come highly recommended by countless other bikers. We did an extensive service and changed sprockets, chain & tyres (all of which I was carrying). We worked late into the night and I shared some tasty nosh with the lads afterwards.

The following day I was to be caught short of a latrine on a few occasions with the first strike of the unavoidable gippo guts. I like to call it the 'Cairo Quickstep' and have a new appreciation for the robes that these chaps wear. I can't think of anything more practical for performing a dark alley squat in.

After a few days in Cairo I was busting to get off the khazi and back into the saddle and on the road. After a brief stop at the pyramids to take the compulsory, token Giza Pyramid photo I headed East for Suez and then down the coast. I had planned this to be a very long and diverse day of riding to sample a little bit of everything Egypt has to offer; the madness of Cairo, winding roads & turquoise waters of the Eastern coast, the mountainous desert crossing to; the fertile banks of the nile. Although long (870kms) it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I should probably explain that I wasn't missing everything else Egypt has to offer as I had explored Egypt extensively for five weeks as a juvenile backpacker almost 11 years ago.

The following morning (Saturday) I had to make for the Southern Nile town of Aswan to process my paperwork for the Monday ferry crossing into The Sudan. Unfortunately I was detained against my will at a police roadblock for several hours and as a result missed making it to Aswan in time. There was an arsenal of weapons on display at this checkpoint and I wasn't going to test any of the itchy trigger fingers. As a result I've spent just over a week in Aswan, among other things strolling their big and very interesting market (picture to left), tinkering with my bike, and doing a bit of soft sand desert training in preparation for the Sudan.

Like myself, my bike had started developing a slightly concerning noise from below, so I took the opportunity to check my valves (well the bikes valves). My local contact found the ideal place for me to perform this work; the lounge of his cousin (who's seen showing off his water refrigeration facility)

The photo's below show the Nile view from my balcony, a typical Felluca on the Nile and then lastly me getting a few beers in with the lads. As you can see I like to dress so as to blend in seamlessly with the locals.

Tomorrow (Monday) I'll finally be catching the ferry across Lake Nasser and into the Sudan, where the adventure riding really starts. The road to Khartoum tracks the Nile most of the way on very bad or non-existent roads, in sweltering heat, but encountering the very friendly Nubian people.

The parting shot is of the April playmate of the month from the africanenduro calendar.

# posted by Mark @ 15:51