Addresses important to us
Thursday 16 June 2005, Aswan
After finally leaving the ferry we (the 5 tourists) caught a taxi into Aswan. There was no bargaining for the taxi as all the drivers quoted the same price. The driver who started his car and stopped next to us got the job. We were quite a mixture, a Canadian, a Norwegian, an English accountant, a Brazilian doctor of Japanese origin and myself, from South Africa on an Australian passport. In town the two young men (Canadian and Norwegian) went their own way to a cheap hotel, while we went for a more expensive hotel, the Hathor, with a view over the Nile, air-conditioning, my own glorious shower. lots of hot water and electricity. A really good shower and a meal and I was more than ready for a good nights sleep.
Friday 17 June 2005, Aswan
Aswan is totally different to Sudan. The locals wear a mixture of western clothes and galibayas. The tourists, and there were quite a few even though it is out of season, were not dressed conservatively at all. There was a lot of old flesh in shorts, lumpy flesh in tight clothes and white flesh exposed to the sun! After the conservative dress in Sudan and Ethiopia it looked disgusting. There is a market with all kinds of shops and restaurants just behind the main street that goes along the Nile. The shops carried spices, peaches, apples, apricots, pears, silver jewelry, clothing, leather sandals, silk and cotton scarves, ice cream, chocolate, baklava, ...... Because it is so hot the shops close about 1pm and open again at 6pm, then they stay open until well into the night.
I spent the morning walking around the market. Young Egyptian men still hit on a woman alone, just like 35 years ago, and now I am old enough to be their grandmother!
Saturday 18 June 2005, Aswan
I spent the morning at the Nile River Ferry Office trying to find out if the car ferry had come in. Finally I was informed it had arrived at 8am and immediately caught a taxi out to the port. The taxi driver tried the scam of quoting LE18 (Egyptian Pounds) and then claiming he said LE80. I paid him LE25 as I had already confirmed that was reasonable.
Sunday 19 June 2005, on the Nile
It took half of Saturday and Sunday morning to sort out the import of Grom. Customs officers checked the papers against the numbers on the car to ensure they matched, gave us special Egyptian number plates and we paid road tax. We finally left Aswan for the campsite nearby around lunchtime. Unfortunately it only catered for backpackers. We could not get the car in which negated the use of the campsite for our purposes. So we set off for Edfu.
The noise that concerned Pieter became louder and louder. The road is narrow with 2 lanes right against the railway track and very little verge. We stopped next to some water barrels as we could at least get off the road. As in Sudan, water is available all along the road in the same conical pottery jars. In Egypt there is also a tap used to fill the barrels. I do not know who keeps the barrels filled though. They are used by everyone, from cars stopping to cool down their engines to pedestrians and animals. Of course we gathered a crowd of watchers while Pieter took out and checked the prop shaft.
We trundled along towards Edfu and as dark approached found a spot where we could take Grom down off the road and stay for the night. There was a water point on the road so we had plenty of water.
Monday 20 June 2005, on the Nile
I worked on the car all day, while Ann washed all our socks and underwear and dealt with the onslaught of diarrhea. She had bought tablets but they did not seem to be working. I took out the drive-shafts to front first and rear later, to try and locate the cause of the noise. Eventually I thought I had it sorted out but that appeared to be wishful thinking. We only found that out the next day of course when we were back on the road. During the night we had the first and only unpleasant experience of our trip so far: two guys had stopped and turned their headlights on to where we were sleeping. That was at about three in the morning. They claimed to be the owners of the spot we were parked and one of them asked for money. They kept pestering us on and off until sunup and than disappeared. Not pleasant but no big problem either.
Tuesday 21 to Thursday 23 June 2005, Edfu
This morning we set off but after a while the noise returned and we slowed down to preserve Grom. We were let through the first roadblock but at the second we were told to wait for a tourists convoy that had recently left Aswan. A bit pissed off we waited and joined up at the end of the convey before the last police car. The convoy drives at 110kph. Pieter did not want to go above 50kph. The police kept on trying to get us to move faster, but nothing changed our speed. In the meanwhile the rest of the convoy had gone on ahead. The police were not very happy with us but stuck behind. We eventually reached Edfu where we had decided to stay while I recovered and Pieter sorted out Grom. The police car made sure we knew the way and went on ahead. The first thing we did was stop at a chemist and buy some anti amoeba medicine. Next thing the police were back asking why we had stopped!
The next few days were spent at the Horus Hotel with clean tiled bathrooms and a TV in each room. I had the rest of the accumulated washing done. It came back clean and ironed so well that even the permanent press creases in a blouse had been ironed out! Pieter took Grom to a mechanic, who confirmed it was the transfer box but he could not fix it. Pieter then phoned Land Rover in Cairo who arranged for a tow truck to pick us up in Edfu and transport Grom to Cairo (900 km).
Thursday 23 to Saturday 25 June 2005, on the road to Cairo
What a nightmare journey!!!!!!
We set the alarm for 11pm Wednesday night as Pieter had understood that the tow-truck would arrive at midnight. It finally arrived at 6am! While Pieter and Ahab, the driver, loaded Grom, I finished packing. Ahab wanted us to stay in Grom's cabin but Pieter felt that Grom was not tied down well enough so we all piled into the front of the truck. At least is was wide enough for 3. We were on our way and Cairo was 18 hours away, we expected to be there Friday morning.
At 10am we stopped at a teahouse in the middle of nowhere. Ahab pulled into the shade, ate a meal, opened his doors and went to sleep. He had already made it clear (without any English) that the truck was liable to overheat in the middle of the day..
We left at 5pm when it was starting to cool off.
The first flat tyre occurred soon after. The spare tyre had an inner tube, but it was practically bald. The one Ahab took off was not much better. One of them looked like a badly peeled potato and it occurred to Pieter that Land Rover might have underestimated the weight of our vehicle (3 ton) by sending a recovery unit that might have been sufficiently equipped for short hauls in town but not for a long trip as this was. It was an old GMC, going about at a leisurely speed and overheating every 10 minutes, forcing us to slow down again.
The first road block, and there were questions, questions, questions. We were let thru'. The second road block came at Luxor (125K from Edfu). There were questions, questions, questions. Pieter complained loudly about having to stop for at least half an hour at each roadblock as we wanted to get to Cairo. I also asked if there was not someway, like a pass, to allow us to go thru' roadblocks without stopping each time. We were let thru' and escorted to the police station because something was apparently wrong with Ahab's papers. This was sorted out, the tyre was repaired and we went on our way. We stopped soon after and discussed how to evade stopping at the roadblocks. Communication was easy as Ahab has a very expressive face and hand signals. It was decided to re-arrange Grom on the flatbed so it was tied as close to the front as possible and we would travel in Grom's cabin and duck at the roadblocks.
We managed two road blocks then Ahab was asked what had happened to the tourists! He said we were asleep so before the next roadblock, Pieter climbed down and sat with Ahab for the rest of the journey. I had the whole cabin to myself so at least I could semi lie down and sleep.
At Qena, 65k from Luxor we picked up a police escort. This meant we sailed through roadblocks. The police arranged it in shifts. One car with 5 police men would drive a certain distance and handover to another car with 5 police men. All this for two tourists, what a waste!
Somewhere along the road in the middle of the night we stopped and grabbed 2 boiled eggs each, the first meal for us since dinner the night before. We had not felt hungry at the truck stop and only had some biscuits and lots of water. I was not prepared to eat the local food with a possibility of worsening the diarrhea. The police were not that happy with us stopping though and harried us along.
By 8am we had reached Asyut. We had done a total of 460k in 13 hours. That means we drove at about 75kph while actually driving, but only averaged 35kph!
Ahab stopped the car at the roadblock on the edge of town and went to sleep. I can imagine he was very tired and very fed up. The police immediately tried to get him to keep going, without success. Eventually they gave up.
We left at 10am with a permanent escort team who would apparently stay with us until Cairo. They did not actually stay with us though. They would drive on ahead and then wait for us at the next roadblock.
We had a double blowout. There was a spare tyre without a rim which had to be changed over and of course the tyre repaired in Luxor. Now there were no spare tyres and the tread on all of them was very bad. In SA the truck would have been taken off the road, in Egypt the police car tyres were not much better than the trucks. Rubber was expected to go long, long way.
2pm and it was time for Ahab to have another sleep. Pieter was also exhausted and slept just as soundly. We left after 2 hours with the men somewhat refreshed. Cairo was still about 350k away. We met our escort coming to see what had happened to us. Naturally they were not pleased.
We stopped again at about 6pm for a meal. The police tried to prevent it, until Pieter angrily pointed out that we had not eaten for 2 days. They were somewhat more considerate after that. Even so they told the truck-stop cook to hurry it up. We were served half raw chicken which had to be sent back for further cooking. At least we had some cooked chicken to go on with along with rice and salad. The rest we took along for later. (When we wanted to eat the leftovers, some of it was still half raw and was thrown away)
We made El Minya by 8pm, sundown. We had traveled 127k since 10am. Where had all the time gone! In changing tyres after the double blowout, in having the inner tubes fixed, in sleeping and in having dinner. But now it was cool, there were usable(?) spare tyres, we were fed and Cairo was a mere 245k away. We made Cairo by midnight.
Ahab had phoned a friend of his, Ahmed, who spoke English, to come and help with communications. While we waited we had the inevitable cup of tea. Pieter also arranged a room at the Ismailia House Hotel. Then it was just a matter of dropping Grom off at the Landrover workshop. Except that was in the satellite city 10th of Ramadan, 65k from Cairo! Grom was eventually unloaded, we packed some clothes and were taken to a taxi rank where Ahmed negotiated a good price to get us back to Cairo. We finally crawled into bed at 3am on Sunday morning.
Sign language can be fascinating. Ahab had managed to tell us that his wife was 7 months pregnant and he had a child of around 5 years old. My sign for a child is holding something in my arms while looking at it lovingly. His sign is a wailing face with hands at each side of the face shaking like mad. It looked hilarious.
Toilets on the road are something else. The ones at truck stops are reasonably clean. Police toilets are horrendous, even they were ashamed that I should see them. They are not the worst I have seen but they come very close second.
With all this behind us it was our impression that Egypt was a police state. Now, after the attack on Sharm el-Sheikh we have a better insight in what is going on. The Egyptian authorities are extremely aware of their vulnerability, more so because this country was the first Arabic state to recognize the new government in Iraq, for instance. In trying to control and prevent violence they must have deployed thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of personnel at numerous positions. They can be seen peering from watch towers all over the country. There is the regular police, security, traffic and a host of others, plus, I would imagine, secret police as well. Whether this is such an efficient way to keep the country safe is debatable. It seems the tourists are focused on in the first place while a lot less attention is given to the local population. One might think that they try to protect the tourists but it often seems they are rather monitoring them when on the move and that gives us an unpleasant feeling. There are countries just as vulnerable for terrorist attack where the police is a lot less visible and one wonders how those countries conduct their security efforts.
As far as road safety is concerned, well, we commented on the state of tyres. And for taxi owners in South Africa, I have good news. No matter how old the Toyota's are, how unroadworthy or in need of repairs, they can be on the road for another ten years. That is based on the observations here, where 50% of all taxis are over 30 years old and taxis that almost fall apart are a common sight. Headlights are only used when the moon is not giving enough light to see by and, if there are street lights, only as sparsely as possible.
All along the Nile there are signs that the arable land is being expanded. Fields were laid out in the sand, with date palms to create shade, canals thru' the sand and in some cases water was already available and small farmers had created oases of green. Where walls had been built you could see the build up of sand caused by the wind. Until the land is all taken up I imagine the farmers will have a continual battle with the encroaching desert.
Sunday 26 June to 25 August 2005, Cairo
We have to stay in Cairo until Grom is repaired and I am better. In the meantime we hope to see something of the highlights.
Ismailia House Hotel, where we are staying, is on Tahrir Square right in the middle of downtown Cairo. The hotel is on the 8th floor of Ismailia House and consists of converted apartments. The building still has apartments plus offices and shops. It was built in the 1930s and has the high ceilings, wooden floors and large rooms of the era. The original entrance was a wide 2 story high foyer in the middle of the building with 2 lifts on either side. Additional shops have been built in the foyer and now you walk single file thru' a corridor between the original foyer walls. Each apartment had a front door to one of the lift lobbies and a back door through the kitchen to an open area above the foyer where the fire escapes are. Washing is still hung from lines extending from the fire escape rails and there is a lot of rubbish on the steps. The original lifts are still in place. Made of wood and glass with double doors and the counterweight outside the building they creak up and down. If an apartment tenant is in the lift with us, we press the 8th floor button and when we get to the tenant's floor, the lift is stopped by opening a door. It must have been one of the most desirable buildings in town when it was built.
The guests are mainly Koreans and Japanese with a smattering from Europe and Arabic countries.
I doubt there were the same number of mosques in the 1930s. Five times a day you hear the call to prayer over a loudspeaker from many different directions. On Friday there are 3 sermons / prayers being blasted out at the same time. How anyone can understand that jumble of noise I do not know. It gives a feeling of a circus and not reverence. On a religious note, Muslim women are expected to dress modestly and the young ones we see are certainly covered. But - with multiple scarves highlighting their well made up faces, figure hugging tops, skirts and / or pants. Covered yes, modest - no more so than a woman wearing a bikini on a beach with hundreds of other bikini clad women. You can still pick out the ones with self confidence and great figures. Religion is very close to everyone. It is quite common to see men walking around reading from small books or sitting in the metro chanting quietly. Many men also have bruises or calluses on their foreheads from praying. Beggars are treated gently. One old man walked into a restaurant where we were eating and the waiters took him aside to a seat and gave him a drink before ushering him out. The restaurants do not allow beggars to bother their customers. Even so one customer, an Egyptian, gave the old man a few pound.
The middle of Cairo is like any other large city, the better off live elsewhere. It is, however relatively close to Islamic Cairo, old Cairo and the Egyptian Museum. From the front you can see the Nile, from the back you can see desert hills. Of course the hills are not the limit of Cairo as there are kilometers of suburbs behind those hills and down the Nile that we cannot see from the hotel. Cairo itself is huge and expanding. The majority live in apartment blocks and judging by adverts for apartments a balcony is desirable. It is one big hive of human activity. And there are few maps of greater Cairo. We use taxis, buses and the metro for transport. If we are going some distance, the taxi driver usually drives somewhere close and then asks the locals where the destination is. This way we found Shoprite in Maadi. It is a small store and not the best place to shop, but it is a little bit of home. Carfour, a large hypermarket in a new part of Cairo is a much better place to shop. Cairo streets are reasonably clean as most shopkeepers take responsibility for the pavement in front. Street sweepers are also a common sight.
They say if you can cross Tahrir Square on foot you will have no trouble crossing other streets. I am sure this is right. The traffic never stops. There is constant hooting and near misses. The traffic is controlled by policemen placed strategically around the large traffic circle. The pedestrians wander at will crossing anywhere they like. Somehow there are no accidents, but you have to cross the road in front of one vehicle at a time with a car millimeters from your back and front. The first few times are quite scary but as with everything else you get used to it. I was even told that I crossed just like an Egyptian.
I tried an antibiotic from the chemist to cure the diarrhea. When that did not work I went to the Anglo American Hospital. After several tries a strong antibiotic turned the tide and after 6 weeks I finally recovered. Unfortunately being tied to a toilet initially limited our sightseeing. It also meant that we did not have much exercise. We paid for this with sore muscles when we finally started getting around.
Sights we have visited
The Egyptian Museum is a block from Tahrir Square. Its size and wealth of artifacts is overwhelming, ranging from the old kingdom through to the Graeco-roman empire.
Khan el Khalili
This is the northern section of Islamic Cairo. It is a very large market consisting of shops in narrow streets. A lot of the shops are for tourists but on the edge there are shops for more mundane goods. I bought a Pashima. I was actually looking for a large scarf to wear in mosques and only realized it was a Pashima later when I read the label. In any case it works well as a scarf. Later on I will use it to go to the showers, that way I will only have one article of clothing to keep out of any water on the floor.
There are also many mosques in the area. Cairo has mosques within shouting distance of each other, hundreds of them.
The Citadel is in the southern part of Islamic Cairo. Salah al-Din (Saladin) began construction of the Citadel in 1176 and it has been continually changed ever since. There are 3 mosques, many different museums and a partially excavated palace within the walls. The main attraction is the Muhammad 'Ali Mosque built in the 1830s to show Turkish domination of Egypt. It is a copy of the Aya Sophia in Istanbul. The walls inside and outside are covered in alabaster. It is impressive but full of tourists with guides speaking in many languages and calling out to show off the acoustics.
This area contains the roman fortress of Egypt in Babylon, Coptic churches and a room where Joseph, Mary and Jesus are said to have stayed while in Egypt. The Christian era in Egypt dates from 300AD to 1000AD and the Ethiopian Coptic church is aligned with the Egyptian Coptic Church. The churches are beautifully decorated with icons, marble, gold and cedar panels inlaid with mahogany and ivory. The hanging church of El Muallaqa is dedicated to St Mary and St Dimiana. The pulpit is made of white marble inlaid with red and black marble and is considered the finest is Egypt. Guides volunteer (as in no payment needed!) their services and explain the symbolism throughout the church. It is called the hanging church because it is built on top of the old roman walls. There are trapdoors in the floor to allow the congregation and clergy to escape during the years of persecution.
We went on a day trip by taxi to take in Dahshur, Memphis, Saqqara and Giza. The pyramids are all built in the desert just beyond the cultivated area. The pyramids were built to hold the 'ka' of the pharaoh. The 'ka' was the vital force emanating from the god to his son the pharaoh. Michael Haag in his book 'Discovery Guide to Egypt' says that it was also a method of nation building helping to unite the once separate kingdoms of upper and lower Egypt as the labor came from all parts of Egypt. All information below was taken from his book.
First stop was Dashur. There is a collapsed pyramid and the bent pyramid which rises at an angle 52° that changes to 43.5°. The explanation for the change in angle is either it was designed that way or the pyramid nearby collapsed during the building of the bent pyramid whose angle was then changed to finish it more quickly or the builders became tired of their task and reduced the angle to limit the time and labor required.
Next came Memphis. There is not much here, basically a museum housing statue of Ramses II and several pillars with hieroglyphics. Ramses II was a great builder of temples. He also put his cartouche (name in hieroglyphics) on buildings and statues constructed by previous pharaohs. The statue has his cartouche on his arms, legs and face to prevent a future pharaoh from taking ownership of it.
Zoser's mortuary complex was built at Saqqara in the Third Dynasty about 2700BC. It was built by Imhotep, Zoser's grand vizier. Imhotep began the use of stone above ground and the Step Pyramid was the first stone pyramid to be built. The site contains several tombs with some inscriptions, but the contents have been removed. Saqqara is the point where the borders of upper and lower Egypt are defined.
By the time we reached Giza we were hot and tired. We also had limited cash as the entrance fees were more than we expected. So we decided to take a carriage and view the pyramids from outside the fences. At least this was a cool option with shade from the sun and we did not have to walk. It involved riding through the suburbs and coming up to the entrance for going inside the great pyramid of Cheops. (it costs EL100 to go inside). We then returned and went close to the Sphinx. We were back at the hotel by 1pm hot and tired. August is not the best month for sightseeing in Egypt as temperatures range from a cool 33°C and a blistering 42°C
What did we eat over these weeks?
Breakfast was included in the accommodation. It consisted of 2 rolls, a cheese wedge, a cold hard boiled egg, butter, jam and tea or coffee. We sometimes skipped lunch. Dinner was a source of both boredom and discovery. Initially we stuck to Pizza Hut and Kentucky as they were close and clean. Eventually pizza and fried chicken palled. Gradually we found other restaurants like Estorils (with beer), Sayed Emara (lamb), a fish restaurant we could not find again, Hilton Bua Khau Thai Restaurant (expensive but great food with beer), La Palice, Cilantro (sandwiches, coffee and latte frappe, we went there for lunch every day for about a week), McDonalds (mainly milkshakes), tinned food and cheese eaten cold. Our best find was Bon Appetit opposite the AUC Library. This had 5 star presentation at a 2 star price. The pasta, sandwiches and chicken were tasty and the ice-cream made on the premises, much better than Movenpick We went there for lunch and dinner every day for over a week. We are really looking forward to home cooking though! Beer is not readily available. Some restaurants serve it, but the majority do not. Bon Apetit had a menu of non alcoholic cocktails served with the same attention to looking delicious as any alcoholic cocktail. I tasted a mint surprise and it was delicious. There are some bottle stores where beer and spirits can be purchased, but they are not common.
What did we do over these weeks?
Initially I slept a lot. We read, even Pieter read several books while I devoured many. We did some sightseeing and shopping. Pieter started writing a book. I worked on the website occasionally and played computer games more often. We brought the cushions, the carpet and other items from Grom and washed the Sudanese dust out. A few days were spent cleaning Grom not only of the dust but also the contents of spilled or broken containers. That was a mucky job. There were also periods of boredom. It takes time to set up a variety of activities and when you know you will be leaving (always hoping that to happen sooner rather than later) there is not much incentive.
Initially we had a room overlooking Tahrir Square. When the traffic noise finally got too much we moved to the back of the hotel. Directly below the room, 8 floors down, the street has been barred to traffic. This has been partially covered, mats spread on the ground and an ablution area built. It is used as a mosque with a loudspeaker for calling the faithful to prayers and on Fridays to broadcast the sermon. Since we have the windows open to catch the breeze (we have no air-conditioning only a fan) it penetrates loudly into our room. We are roused at 4.30, reminded to go to breakfast lunch and dinner and then to see the 9:00pm movie on DSTV. Our days have became regulated to some extent by the calls to prayer. I will miss it once we are on our way.
The story of Grom
The time spent in Egypt has obviously focused on Grom. For my own benefit I worked out what happened each week and why it took so long. This is a synopsis of that story. The lesson to be learnt is - avoid importing car parts into Egypt, it takes at least 2 weeks to clear customs and nag, nag, nag. Even so it will take weeks to get anything done.
Week 1 - spent identifying the problem and transporting Grom to Cairo
Week 2 - Land Rover Service Centre inspected Grom and agreed the problem was the transfer box.
Week 3 - Land Rover quoted for buying and fitting a new transfer box. We ended up paying half this price.
Week 4 - Pieter found a supplier for a reconditioned transfer box in England, paid for it and arranged for it to be sent to Land Rover Egypt
Week 5 - Confirmed payment received and transfer box delivered to Cairo airport
Week 6 - Tried to find out why it remained at Cairo airport
Week 7 - Finally, with the help of Land Rover and DHL discovered it was a matter of customs duty. Paid the duty and had the transfer box delivered to Land Rover.
Week 8 - Land Rover fitted the transfer box and on Thursday evening (last day of the working week) discovered an oil leak.
Week 9 - Land Rover ordered the oil seal from London. They do not keep any spare parts in Egypt. It arrived within 2 days and stayed in customs. Unfortunately there were supposed to be 2 parcels and only one arrived. Customs would only release the complete set.
Week 10 - Things started to happen
Frustrated, Pieter arranged for Grom to be taken by flatbed to Hossam's workshop. Hossam specializes Land Rover Defenders had agreed to make a roof rack and look at a few other problems. He is in Maadi a southern Cairo suburb and about 15 kilometers away from our hotel. Finally Grom was close enough for us to work on. Pieter fixed shelves, the mechanism to attach the spare wheels and looked at the wheel hubs. I cleaned out the worst of the muck from the canopy. Hossam made and fitted the roof rack. He would normally have taken 6 days but because he knew Pieter was so frustrated he completed it in 4 days. He also welded covers on the suspensions airbags. The original thick plastic covers had broken and been replaced with wood between the airbags and the canopy. The wood was pushing the canopy out of line. The new metal covers do not touch the canopy. The gearbox with transfer box was also taken from Land Rover to Hossam's where he fitted it on Wednesday with a generic Japanese oilseal. The new oil seal finally arrived on Wednesday morning after spending 2 weeks in customs. Unfortunately Land Rover had ordered the wrong seal!
Thursday (today) we went to Carrefour ( an hypermarket with shopping mall) and filled the fridge. Pieter is getting the air-conditioning fixed and .................. we are off TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Friday 26 August 2005, Cairo
We had a wonderful day!
We rose relatively early even though Pieter had arrived back at the hotel at 2 am for the second night in a row, had breakfast, tipped the hotel staff, said goodbye to the staff and guests, packed the last of our belongings and headed for Grom parked in the street below. Before finally leaving we had a last coffee and cake at Cilantros. Then we were on our way bubbling with excitement and joy.
We had a little trouble finding the Alexandria Desert Road. We followed the signs on the Ring Road until it simply petered out. We had to backtrack to the last main exit, crossing over the centre of the highway twice, once in front of the police who made no comment. This led to the Alexandria Agricultural road and finally onto the Desert Road. The first stop was the toll booth about 30k from Cairo where we paid our LE3 and received a promotional bottle of Fayrouz (a carbonated fruit drink). The second stop was at 38k from Cairo. The engine stopped. Pieter glided to the verge and started the car. Great. Then he put it into first gear and raised the clutch pedal. The engine stopped. Eventually he phoned our friendly flatbed service provider to take us back to Cairo. We had to wait a couple of hours for Ahab to arrive. I think Ahab must be the only flatbed driver in the company. In the meantime we had food and water for our journey so we were quite comfortable. It seemed much cooler than Cairo with a nice soft breeze. By the time Ahab arrived we had realised we were very close to Cairo and the price quoted for the tow, which we had accepted, was way too high. Eventually Pieter negotiated a reasonable price and Grom was loaded onto the flatbed. I was concerned that the whole back of the truck was tilted to one side and realised that the flatbed had not been caught properly in its support stays when it was lowered into position. I showed this to Ahab and he tried to fix it but eventually decided that the verge was sloped to one side and we should move to a flat verge. He drove off and turned at a designated U-turn and parked on a slight downhill but flat verge.
Then the fun started. He moved the flatbed up and back to redo the forward and down motion and bed it properly. Except one of the hydraulic shafts that raise and lower the flatbed came off. There is one on each side of the flat bed. Grom was taken off the flat bed and the shaft put back on. When Ahab again raised the flatbed (without Grom to test it), the shaft came off again. Eventually with lots of help from Pieter and after trying brute force and other measures both hydraulic shafts were wired to their support using some wire found by the roadside. This time the flat bed went into the correct slot. Thus we proceeded to Hossam in Maadi, grabbed the last of our belongings packed that morning and returned to our room at Ismailia House Hotel.
At least we had a very nice dinner at Bon Appetit.
Trivial information: Ahab now has a second daughter, born sometime in the last two months. Carrefour is a French chain of hypermarkets. We passed a branch on the desert road. We now understand why the sign on the ring road in Cairo did not say Carrefour but Maadi City Centre. When we went yesterday to stock up we went past the turnoff because we did not want to go to the centre of Maadi. Of course we had to go on a huge diversion to get back to the Maadi City Centre turnoff. Maadi City Centre is the name of the mall where the Cairo branch of Carrefour is located.
Saturday 27 August to Monday 12 September 2005, Cairo
The gear box needs repair and parts have to be ordered from England. Here we go again!
Week 11 - the gearbox was removed and inspected, the parts ordered from England, paid for and delivered to customs in Cairo.
When the gearbox was taken apart, it was obvious that
there was extreme damage. The pinion shaft and lay shaft had to be replaced.
ball bearings were as good as pulverized. It is difficult to believe that this damage was done over a distance of only 25.000 km and Land Rover Egypt said the gear box was fine!.
Week 12 - We paid customs duty on Monday and the parts were to be delivered on Tuesday. DHL took them to Hossam but refused to hand them over because Ann Vrolijk was not there! This was a new one on us. Pieter took matters into our own hands, we went to the airport, I signed for the parts even though Pieter could have just as easily done so (duh!), picked up the parts and delivered them personally to Hossam by Tuesday night. Just as well taxi fares are cheap. Hossam worked on it Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is the start of the new week, so we are now into another week.
Week 13 - We have another month to enter Libya. The gear box was put together and fitted by Monday and tomorrow, Tuesday, we will go for a test drive up towards Israel.
We found the fish restaurant again, it is El Nil Fisheries and Restaurant. We also found another restaurant, Le Grillion which widens our eating choices although Bon Appetit is still the favorite.
We also went to a huge mall, City Stars in Heliopolis, the largest in Africa. They have all the food chains and a restaurant with the most delicious cakes you can imagine. It is called Les Quatre Saisons. The restaurant also has a really good pizza, thin crust, lots of topping, similar to the one in Addis Abeba. The mall has plenty of shops for clothing and furnishings, a cinema with both Arabic and English films and a huge area with all sorts of kiddies rides and game stations. A hypermarket is being opened soon.
The election posters are all around us. The pictures are all of Mubarak and the English writing says something like 'We the people of blah blah committee for the blah blah blah blah nominate your Excellency the president of the Islamic Republic of Egypt Mr. Mubarak to continue your good works blah blah blah'. Very verbose. Everyone accepts that the result is a foregone conclusion but it is the first time there has been a multi-candidate, multi-party election. Mubarak has already been in power 26 years - another power hungry man. Maybe he will keep his promise of further democratization, but after so long he will find that very difficult. There have been some anti Mubarak demonstrations in Tahrir Square. There were about 100 protestors, minute considering Cairo has an official population of 18 million (unofficial 26 million). But the demonstration did make the European News. According to newspapers only 25% of the electorate voted, the majority did not see the point of voting. Another statistic is that 37% of the electorate are women. Since populations are normally around 50/50 men and women, I wonder why there are comparatively few women voters? Either women do not bother to register or voter registration is biased towards men.
Tuesday 13 to Thursday 15 September 2005, El Arish
Now Grom was ready we headed for the Mediterranean coast to test it out. We went via the ring road exiting on the Suez off ramp. This meant we ended up going through a lot of new, unfinished suburban estate developments. At Suez we went through a tunnel under the canal and could have taken many photos of ships literally in the desert, but we refrained, so you do not have to download such trite photos.
There is no camping at El Arish, as expected, and the hotels are either 5 star and out of our budget or expensive for very little. We ended up parking on the beach with the permission of the owner of Basata Fish Restaurant. We used the restaurant toilets and the brack water beach showers. The town was full of Palestinians, all young males in their twenties. They had come down from the Gaza strip because the Egyptians had just opened the border after the Israelis pulled out of Gaza. Apparently the border itself was chaotic. I must have been the first European female they had seen in their life because I was watched constantly, especially when I went for a swim. The Muslim women went into the water fully clothed and washed the salt off under the shower still fully clothed including head scarf. I went in my costume, although I did keep covered until the shore line.
Friday 16 to Sunday 18 September 2005, Cairo
The return trip to Cairo was uneventful, except we were stopped by the police. Presumably they were being cautious because of the newly opened border. Usually we were waved through the numerous police stops in the delta area. We also went over the very high impressive Murbark Peace Bridge at Ismalia.
In Cairo Hossam checked the gear box and pronounced it fine even though there was a small oil leak. Pieter bought a set of gearbox tools and transmission oil just in case. He also had the air conditioner fixed.
Monday 19 to Wednesday 21 September 2005, Marsa Matrouch
We bought groceries at Carrefour in Dandy Mall on our way through to Marsa Matrough.
Best Site Hotel allowed us to camp on the beach and use the staff facilities at slightly more than the cost at Ismalia House Hotel in Cairo. From the hotel's reaction it seems this has been done before. The water was calm, clear, cool and relaxing. The hotel had many over 60s from Europe and Egypt on a package deal. It is the first time we have seen so many mature people all together. The majority swam in costumes, so I did not feel out of place when swimming and sunbathing.
Trivial information: The movie channel on TV is broadcast from Saudi Arabia and the adverts are aimed at a fairly conservative audience. However, there are a few adverts that took us by surprise, a nail being hammered into the wall and always bending until a stronger nail is used, a cigarette always drooping until a cigar is used, a straw which could not be pushed through the top of a plastic coffee mug until a strong straw was used, a big ball being attacked by what looked like tadpoles (sperm) and after each a screen showing one word - viagra.
Addresses important to us
Ismalia House Hotel
1, El Tahrir Square
Tel: 02 796 3122
GPS: N 30° 2 ' 41.9", E 31° 14' 13.8"
Follow the signs to 'Downtown' or 'Egyptian Museum'
Our home from home in Cairo
Hossam - Landrover Defender Mechanic
67 Soorel Madabg St
Near car market for bassteen
GPS: N 29° 59' 6 ", E 31° 17' 19.5"
Near where the Autostrade crosses under the ring road at Maadi
Carrefour - Maadi City Centre
GPS: N 29° 58' 54.2", E 31° 19' 2.2 "
on the ring road just south-east of Hossam
Landrover Service Centre - if you really must
10th Ramadan City
on the road to Ismalia from Cairo, last turnoff to Ramadan.
GPS: N 30° 17' 35.3", E 31° 48' 17.6"
|Averages||Rand||Dollar||Egyptian Pound||BACK to Sudan||NEXT to Libya, Tunisia, Malta|
|Cost per litre diesel||0.69||0.12||0.60|
|Kilometers per litre||7|
|Hotels per night||60.92||10.60||53.00|
|Kilometers traveled||1,783||excluding Edfu to Cairo|
|Days in country||98||NB: Diesel can be dirty|