On a different note, our route around the Western Desert took us through El Kharga and then onto the direct Luxor road, only recently opened to foreigners.
Posted by Ken Thomas at January 19, 2010 03:11 PM GMT
Years ago there were fatal attacks on archaeological sites in both these towns with devastating effects on the tourist industry, which still hasn't recovered. Many hotels and camp sites are pretty empty and appear to be struggling to survive.
So as we approached this general area the present security situation started to become apparent to us.
Firstly, in Farafra, once we had parked up outside our hotel another biker arrived. A Swiss rider going in the opposite direction to us, Cape Town to Switzerland. He was on an old Ducati air-cooled 750 with Cagiva Capo Nord bodywork, tank and luggage. His frame had broken on the dreaded northern Kenya road - he showed us with some pride the emergency welding and repair struts. But he did admit to tackling that road at about 120 kph - he had to be back in Switzerland by 2nd February!
So there were now four bikes outside the hotel and a police car cruised slowly past taking a good look.
In the morning a tourist policeman arrived to ask the usual questions we get asked at the numerous checkpoints between towns: Nationality? Where headed? Number on the Egyption number plate?
And in addiion, what time will we be departing?
In El Qasr, after camping in the White Desert and now installed in our hotel, the ebullient Mohamad walked through the bar carrying a big pile of blankets. "As I have tourists here now, I have to make sure the police will comfortable. They guard the hotel overnight whenever there are foreigners staying."
Because of the upset stomach situation we stayed there three nights, so on the second night, just for a change, the armed night policeman set up his blankets in the back yard right next to our parked bikes. What service!
In the next town, Kharga, there seemed to be only one budget hotel. But with nowhere but the dingy dark street outside to park the bikes. So we tried a couple of more expensive hotels. Each time, once we had decided it was too pricey, and with foreigners already booked in, the on-duty tourist policeman asked us which hotel we were going to try next. So then we realised we needn't worry about parking outside the cheap place. We told the policeman we were going to the Wahid hotel, booked ourselves in there, and sure enough when we came down to the entrance foyer to go off looking for a restaurant, there was the armed policeman installed for the night, within sight of our bikes.
And now, at our camp here in Luxor that always has foreigners staying, there's a policeman permanently stationed on site, taking care of us all and our vehicles. In fact, as the food is so good (the owner is also an expert chef), there always seems to be quite a few policemen here at mealtimes!
But all in all it's a little sad, seeing a wonderfully friendly country so desperate to protect its tourists and regain its reputation that we almost have personal bodyguards in those areas where visitors are few and far between.
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