This is part of the fifth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Libya
9/3/99 I will describe the three and a half hour entry into Egypt because of its amazing inefficiency. Passports are processed by batch, being first checked individually then taken away, and while the 40 odd people wait they are processed again and finally returned. Now the motorcycle. 1. Customs check, cursory, initialled carnet. 2. Police station to get a pencil rubbing of the engine and chassis number which is stuck to a form. 3. Checked by another officer who fills in the form. 4. Back to customs who accesses the duty payable (Egypt being the only country requiring both a carnet and to pay customs duty) (252 E motorcycle, 1000 E car). 5. Another form to the payment office, pay money and get a receipt. 6. Back to customs with the receipt to get another form. 7. Over to pay insurance, 17 E, two more forms. 8. Back to police who require photocopies. 9. Photocopy office. A monopoly so each photocopy costs 10 times the usual street price. 10. Back to police who issue number plates, 35 E. 11. Install plates on motorcycle. 12. Back to police for a laminated registration card and another form. 13. Back to customs with the form to collect the carnet. 14. Four passport checks in the first 20 km of the border. Welcome to Egypt. Total cost 308 E or $US 90.00. Bear in mind that each of these offices is 100 meters or more apart, the officers speak no english, some counters are through back doors and no one can tell you where to go next and allowing for a couple of mistakes it is three and a half hours. After just a few meters over the border you realize the colour green of Libya has changed to blue of Egypt while as your blood boils all you can see is red. We rode the 220 km to Mersa Matruh where awaiting us was the local police escort to guide us to our hotel, make sure we registered and left us alone for the night.
10/3/99 Our four minders and police car was there again in the morning and followed us to change engine oil, wash the bike and get petrol before escorting us to the army machine gun tower at the edge of town, recording our destination and hotel plans. I don't know if the police presence is supposed to make independent tourists feel at ease and safe or to protect them. Either way you can't help but feel cautious. Alexandria must be a less fundamentalist place as we were left to ourselves. The big city was bustling, crowded and shops full of western goods, the road in lined for a 100 km's of new beach front development. We have been to Egypt five years earlier so this trip we will only be seeking out areas not visited before, thus avoiding/missing the more usual tourist places.
11/3/99 The enormous Nile delta stretches from Alexandria to Port Said and is crossed by thousands of small roads weaving in and out of canals and some of the most fertile country in the world. Most of Egypt's 60 million people live here and they all seem to be out working the fields or blocking the narrow roads with cars, donkey carts and tractors. We rode around getting lost on unmarked narrow roads, through dusty towns looking at boat travel, reed collection, fishing, farming, talking, arguing, bargaining, ploughing, harvesting etc. The first 150 km taking five hours. Here it hardly ever rains but there is almost always plenty of water. Hotelled in Port Said.
12/3/99 The true ships of the desert aren't camels but the ones sailing the Suez Canal. When viewed side on it looks as though they are moving through the sands with no water visible. One day they sail one way the next day the other, continuously every 20 minutes. Into Cairo and luckily it was Friday, Muslim holiday else the bad traffic would have been horrendous.
13-14/3/99 Two Days in Cairo and nothing much has changed in five years except we are hassled less, presumably because there are more tourists to go around. Five years ago there was a shortage of tourists due to the active fundamentalist muslims targeting them to get attention, but judging by the heavy police presence the government seems determined to keep the tourists safe. Finally managed to update the web site at the cheap internet cafe's in the city and spent the rest of the time relaxing. People are living their dreams everywhere like Dave who is trying to drive a London taxi from Great Britain to South Africa. With two companions he is trying to produce a documentary of the trip and with the problems they have encountered so far it should make great viewing.
15/3/99 Over to the Sinai leaving Africa and into Asia passing under the Suez Canal via the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel effectively linking Africa with Asia for the first time since the Suez Canal was built in 1869. It's now technically possible to drive all the way from the top of Europe to the bottom of Africa without having to ship or fly the vehicle. There is still evidence of the war between Israel and Egypt here with razor wire, trenches and rusted wrecks in the desert. About 50 km from Nuweiba, our destination, the road traverses a mountain range following the wadi between wind sculptured, "marble cake mountains", nature having regained its wadi from the road in past heavy rain only to have man rebuild, leaving road debris strewn between the palms, sand and coloured rock.
16/3/99 Nuweiba is the boat departure port for Jordan, and just north in Tarabin, lining the ocean and overlooking the Saudi Arabian coast you can relax in Bedouin style ground lounges, mats on the sand shaded by palm lean-tos. This Israeli holiday spot (requiring no visas to enter this part of Egypt, proving money or tourism is often more important than politics) is ideal to relax and do minor maintenance on the motorcycle, particularly while it is in the off tourist season.
17/3/99 Ten post cards between two people and moving from lying in the sun when you get too hot and moving from the shade when you get too cold, eating barbecue chicken and drinking coffee is about a full days work at Nuweiba. Being more dynamic than most we even managed to stroll along the beach paddling our feet in the warm Red Sea waters. It's hard work travelling.
18/3/99 Leaving Egypt for Jordan and the same bureaucratic
nightmare as entering particularly as we had managed to lose one of our
Egyptian number plates to souvenir it. Still as we had a boat to catch there
were runners helping not to delay the sailing. Again a different price (almost
double) for foreigners to locals $US 32.00 each and $US 20.00 for the motorcycle
payable in US dollars, to Aqaba.
Move with us to Jordan
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,