EGYPT: 01.01. - 20.02.2004
Route: Nuweiba, Suez, Cairo, Beni Suef, Minya, Quena, Luxor, Aswan,
Luxor, Kairo, Suez, St. Catherine, Nuweiba
Distanz: 1928 Km
Preface: This country has nearly everything: sun, the sea, breathtaking mountains, desert, culture, aggressive dealers, and tricksters. We are really happy with the landscape, but we really didn't feel comfortable because of the Egyptians who nearly always try to get as much money out of the tourists as possible. Because of the overpopulation camping is only possible in the desert.
We were just going to leave Cairo, when we heard, that it is forbidden
to travel from Cairo to Asswan with the bikes. The government is
afraid of terrorist (after the bomb attack in Luxor in 1997), and
so the police doesn't allow individually traveling tourists to enter
this region without a permission. It is not dangerous any more, but
the police is still worried for the tourists. So we went to the main
office of the Tourist Police. There they told us, that it is possible
to get a permission, but they would need an application with a timetable
with all the hotels we are going to stay during the night. So we went
back to our hotel (the beautiful rooftop Dahab Hotel), and together with Maeds,
a cyclist from Denmark planning to cycle the same route, we wrote our application.
Back in the police station one of the policemen took us to the normal
tourist office where they (one policeman and the guy from the tourist office)
made the translation from English into Arabic. Two days later, we got the
permission, but instead of the paper with the permission, the police
officer just told us, that he'll send a fax with the permission to all
the police stations on our route. So we got lucky again and expecting
Ufo, a friend of mine coming to visit us, we decided to leave after
Together with Maeds, the guy from Denmark, we
started our journey through the Nile valley. The first night we spend
at the home of Salah in Maadi about 20 Km south of Cairo. We met
Salah on the ferry from Jordan to Egypt, and he invited us to his
house. There the unexpected happened. The police was already waiting
for us in front of his house. Of course we were really not happy with this
situation, especially we didn't want to cause any problems to Salah. With
the permission from the policeman, we went to a really beautiful restaurant. To
enter the restaurant we had to cross a bridge in the garden. Inside they had
several rooms, all equipped completely different. The Arabic room (sitting
on the floor on mattresses) was already completely full. So we went to
a nice room with normal chairs. Meanwhile Salah and Maeds had fun with
their Sheeshas (Water pipe), we enjoyed a really good Cappuccino
an a Hot Chocolate. When we returned there was no policeman in font
of the house and so Salah made a telephone call and told the police
to return to "guard" us. So the policeman returned, but when we started
in the next morning, again no policeman was there. So we started
to travel without any police.
After 60 Kilometers we arrived at the first police
checkpoint. A police officer explained to us, that they would follow
us with a police car for safety reasons. Now a rush through the Nile
valley started. Together with a, from checkpoint to checkpoint changing
police escort, we cycled the 711 Km from Maadi to Luxor in only 6
days. Because of the police we had to stick on our timetable and the
hotels. We made up to 145 Km each day. Each day we started at about 8
am, after waiting for half an hour for the police, and after two
breaks of 30 minutes we arrived at the next hotel at about 4 pm.
Despite our expectations, all the police men were very friendly.
Also the exchange of the escorts were very well organized. Only in
the region of Sohag it didn't work. For the last 20 km they
exchanged the escort 3 times and we had to wait about 1,5 hours altogether
for the next police car.
Arriving in Luxor, we decided to stop here, instead
of cycling to Aswan. Maeds wanted to return to Cairo before
flying back to Denmark, Nadine didn't want to cycle so hard, an I
had problems with my Achilles sinew. So the next day, we went to
Asswan by train, without the bikes . In Asswan we visited the high dam
and arranged a 2 day's and 2 night's trip on a Felukka (small sailing
boat). There are plenty of Felukkas in Asswan, but it is really hard to
find a good boat and a good captain. Most of them just try to rip
off the tourists. As probably nearly everybody, we also paid too
much for the trip. After the guy who sold the trip to us tried to
offer us some more of his "cheep" tours, I told him, that he is is
too expensive. After that the guy got really rude and asked us to
leave the boat (without paying back our money). We already started
to pack our things, when the captain intervened and told the guy
to leave his boat. We started at 12 am, and because the wind was really strong,
we sailed really athletically on the Nile. Several times the water splashed
over the bow and the boat lay so slanting in the water, that only some centimeters
were missing, before the water came into the Felukka. During the whole trip,
the meals the crew cooked for us, were neither really good nor enough.
The first night we stayed on a quiet sandy bank. The next morning,
we again were quite fast, and so we were really surprised, when the
captain left the boat in the afternoon after a 2 hour break for lunch.
He told us, that he would like to spend the night together with his
family, and his son would stay on board to bring us to Kom Ombo in
the morning. Because we were already able to see Kom Ombo, his son
had big problems to sail slow enough. Because of the sail he was
even able to be slower then the current. He also managed to sail
a circle!! Well, after 1,5 hours he stopped and told us, that we would
stay there for the night. Close to this place was a small village
and the children
Because we missed the chance to see the Sufi Dancers in Konya
(Turkey), we went to a presentation in Cairo. We arrived nearly half
a hour before the beginning and could only get a seat in the last third.
Although the Mosque was really full and the musicians already started
to play, another bus with tourists arrived and all of them came loudly
talking inside. We had good luck, because the people in front of
us, sat down on the floor. But behind us the last people just decided
to stand, so nobody in the last rows was able to see anything. Some
friends of us, who were sitting behind us, could barely see anything of the
show and left quite early. The presentation itself was really impressing. The
dancing Derwisch with his skirt like dress, was twirling around for
nearly half an hour. Even though this was really great, he suddenly stopped,
thanked the audience and walked from the stage, as if nothing had happened.
The second dancer was very good also, although he just twirled for about
20 minutes. But he was wearing several dresses and took them of in an impressing
way, as you can see on the picture.
Our last three days we spent on the beach in Nuweiba. We
rented a hut and a snorkeling mask in a lonesome camp about
3 Km south of the city. We heard much about snorkeling in the Red
Sea, and we only expected to see some fishes. But what we saw was
really great. Straight in front of our camp was the Stone House Reef.
We just had to swim some meters away from the beach and had to look
into the water, to be in a completely different world. Besides the beautiful
coral reef we saw many fish. Not only one or two, as we expected,
no hundreds of fish in many different colors, forms and sizes. Especially
the Lion Fish was really impressing. It was surprising to us to see that the
fish were not interested in us at all. With a small smile, I had to think
about the anglers in Germany. They think, that noise and people who are swimming
would disturb the fish. May be the fish in Germany are different, but
here we were snorkeling sometimes closer than 1m to the fish, and they
didn't care about us. We had only one problem. The water was really cold,
so we couldn't stay longer than half a hour in the water. On the second
day the guy from the resort took away the snorkeling mask, because
he found a tourist who wanted to pay more for it than we. So we just
spend our last day on the beach.
The next day we went back to Aqaba with the ferry. According
to our information the ferry should depart at 12 am. At the ticket
office at 10 am they told us, that the ferry will leave, when the
Moslems return from the mosque (it was Friday, the holy day for the
Moslems). We tried to exchange the rest of our Egypt money, but the
bank didn't accept it. They even told us, that they don't have US
Dollar or Euro, and this, although the ticket office only accepts US
Dollars! Quite angry I left the bank and changed the money at a small store.
The customs was really fast and at 11 am we were on the ferry. Then every half
a hour some new passengers came on the boat, an then at 4 pm with a delay of
three hours we left Egypt. When we arrived in Aqaba (Jordan) it was really hard
and dangerous to leave the ferry. About 2000 Egyptians tried to leave the
ferry through a 1m wide door, and everybody tried to be the first. So everybody
pushed and shouted. I was squeezed several times so hard, that I was not able
to breath and I'm still wondering, that I didn't brake a rib. Nadine was
pushed against the parapet so hard that she got heavy pain in her back.
She was only able to reach the entrance safely hidden behind two
women with their small children.
Looking back on our journey so far, we nearly had only very good experiences with the people in the different countries we visited. Especially in the countries where we didn't expect it, like the cordiality of the people in Ukraine and Russia and the great hospitality in Turkey and Syria. But unfortunately, we had many bad experiences in Egypt. We talked much about this to each other and to many other travelers to find any reason. Many of the travelers condemn the whole nation, but for us it was not so easy. Although I use the plural, of course I do not mean every Egyptian. We were always impressed from the nearly childlike openess and curiosity we found nearly everywhere. We also wondered about the talent of the Egyptians, to solve their sometimes really hard verbal discussions without any violence, and that they seem to be happy with their life. But on the other hand, they try to cheat at any opportunity. Especially if you try to buy something, they lie a lot. We know, that bargaining is a part of the Arabic culture, but in no other Arabic country we visited so far, the bargaining was so hard as in Egypt. Sometimes it seemed to be more like a fight with words than a game. Unfortunately we also made the experience, that many people are not just friendly. Accept only a few times a friendly started small talk ended, that they tried to sell something to us or tried to offer us a hotel or a tour. Very often we had the feeling, that they didn't see us as people, but just as Euros with two legs. For us it was really interesting, that the tourists from the other Arabic countries were ripped off sometimes even harder than us. We were really sad about our impression, that the Egyptians don't really try to improve their economical situation. Instead of trying to give their children a good education, it seems to bee enough for them to make profit out of the achievement of others. The two main sources for earning money are the tourists (but the tourists come to visit the sights of a great culture which doesn't exist any more since a long time) und the Suez Canal which was built from the French an the British. But this seems to be not enough to support the fast growing population. We hope that our experiences on our last day in Egypt are not symptomatic for the self confidence, self worthiness, and the future of the country. The banks didn't want to change their currency and the Egyptians push each other nearly to death to leave the ferry/country as fast as possible...