19 December 2009

Egypt Roundup

Day 152 to 159 - Aswan - 075

I think this will be my last roundup covering just one country, as we are now picking up the speed for the last leg through the Middle East and back to Europe. As you might have noticed, we have found ourselves suddenly tacking on a whirlwind tour of the Eastern Mediterranean, mainly due to our newly acquired horror of ferry journeys (I write this on the Nuweiba-Aqaba ferry, having experienced another fine example of streamlined government processes while leaving).

Anyway, Egypt. Or should I say, Aswan, as we spent the bulk of our time there. Being pedestrians once again has been a new experience. We had to catch taxis and buses (and boats), which was not always a bad thing. The public bus to Abu Simbel turned out to be almost fun (as much fun as a three hour drive through a flat sand desert can be) with our breakfast box provided by the hotel and plenty of reading matter imported by Alex. Yes, Alex has joined us, and fitting right in, has become holder of the kitty and chef extraordinaire. We are now three again, and it feels good.

Day 163-7 - Aswan - 101

Being in one place had other advantages, specially somewhere like Aswan where most interaction between foreigners and locals is reduced to the level of selling/buying tourist goods and services. After a few days of passing the same spot the spice seller stopped offering his wares and started joking, the fellucca captains took us for granted and the souq touts offered karkady rather than hassling us. We started telling people we were Nubians from Aswan and found that behind the intense selling pitch were a bunch of friendly, hospitable and interesting people.

Day 168 - Aswan to Eastern Desert via Karnak - 108

Egypt was, obviously, temples and tombs and ruins and pyramids. It was the magnificent temple at Karnak, where ruins are being reassembled by crane, to the envy of the pharaohs watching from the hereafter; it was hard sell from the guides and postcard sellers at every location, hordes of bus tourists crowding the sites and all the tack not being able to overshadow the bombast of Ramses II who was obviously so insecure that he needed colossi in his own image and self portraits as he smites his enemies and pals with the gods.

Day 168 - Aswan to Eastern Desert via Karnak - 086

There were not as many temple visits as I’d liked, but they will have to wait for another time. Instead Egypt turned out to be about making new friends and meeting old ones: It was getting behind the facade and discovering a fellucca captain concerned with his colleagues’ hardline sales patter ruining business for all of them; a fixer who hates the local bureaucracy that is making his job of getting overlanders across the border so unpleasant; a waiter who loves the kitten that hangs around the restaurant tables begging for scraps, the hotel clerk who made sure we always knew the real price for things so we wouldn’t get ripped off. It was days and days of doing absolutely nothing, wandering from hotel roof terrace to Corniche to waterside restaurant, waiting for the day to end so that maybe, tomorrow, Inshallah, there would be news of the car. Eventually it was the battle with Egyptian bureaucracy, which everyone had told us was ridiculous, but which we never in our wildest nightmares could have imagined to be this inefficient. It was finally leaving Aswan, back on the open road, and driving, driving all day, the Nile passing by, people passing by, desert passing by and not stopping ever again.

Photos are here.

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