Monthly Archives: October 2015

Farewell to Cairo

 

A cruise with a Falukha on the Nile is an absolute "must"! It is impressive how fast the city noises vanish and then there is only wind and water.

 

Having the car back, this obviously means that our "itchy feet" need a cure and we have to be back on the road again!

So, we tried to make as much of the last few days in this "terrible beauty" of a city. Here are some impressions ...

Public transport - Nile or Amazon?

 

Our captain ...

 
 

It was a wonderful sunset cruise ... oh how we do love to travel!

 

The Pyramids of Gizeh is something that everybody "knows" from their history books at school. Standing right in front of them is so very dwarfing and certainly puts the impressive technological and scientifical development and knowledge of the old Egyptians in its right position! ... all this was constructed at a time when Europe still was full of savages clad in animal skins. What a magical place!

As Egypt is suffering under a 75% decrease of tourists at the moment, this enables you to be more or less on your own discovering this only remaining of the ancient seven wonders of the world.

 
 
 
 

If you are doing Transafrica, you've got to take some pictures with the car in front of the pyramids ...

Great: no tourists and no roads ...

 

The Sphinx ... as equally great as the pyramids but slightly smaller than expected!

 
 

A ship aged over 4000 years old ... what a beautiful vessel!

 
 

An impressed Sóley in the minaret of the El Ghawri Mosque.

 

We don't know what's wrong here, but usually it's the parents who try to "make" their kids go to museums, churches et cetera ... Sóley makes us go to mosque after mosque and apparently is deeply touched ...

A view on Cairo from the minaret.

A beautiful ceiling.

Ancient ivory inlay work ... Anouk loves it and hates that animals had to die for this at the same time.

 

The minaret from below.

 
 

Indulging in Lebanese food with fellow Land Rover owner Sam Watson.

 

Before coming to Cairo, Sam was one of the great people who had helped us in planning our Transafrican adventure. We were invited to stay at his home, our kids loved the atmosphere of a flat with a multitude of interesting things to discover in every corner and on every shelf ... and impressively, nothing has been damaged by them.

After having spent about a week together, we feel like we leave a friend behind. It's great that we have at least two travel plans together, Sam!

 

The good ol' times!

 

Distant relatives.

 

Haha! Don't eat raw fish in Egypt!!! Thanks for the Sushi-Farewell, Sam!

 
 

Bye bye Mr. Sam Sandrover ... we will miss you ... but meet again so soon!

 

The roads that took us down south to the Red Sea coast were in unexpectedly good condition. Still, I had to drive in darkness for about 1,5 hours ("Don't do it!", says the German Foreign Ministry in its travel advice).

The countryside is rocky, dusty and smells of petrol.

Shipping Cars from Greece to Egypt – Part Two

For everybody who did not read Pt. One, here ist the link!

 

Thanks for doing a great job, Nermien (not in the photo), Salah, Fatih and all the other people at CFS in Alexandria!

Our new Egyptian license plates.

 

For everybody who did not read Part One, here is the link ...

As it is not possible to go on the same ship the car is on as a passenger, the only way to get to Egypt is by plane. Flying to Egypt (Cairo) is not that expensive ... we paid 179€ per adult and 168€ per child (i.e. 694€ for the family alltogether; 20kg luggage + hand luggage). This is the travel agency in Athens we did the booking with:

Joy Tours (Mairi Stathopoulou, stathopoulou@joytours.gr)
162 Patission Str.
11257 Athens
Tel.: (+30)2108620103, 2130002250
Fax: (+30)2108628717
Mail: info@joytours.gr
Web: www.joytours.gr

After having arrived in Egypt, we now had to start the procedures in Alexandria with our customs broker and, thus, had to go there in person.

The trip from Cairo to Alexandria can easily be done by train (also very cheap). Morning trains leave at 6:00 and 8:00 in Cairo and take about three hours (as there are more trains, it is even possible to go back and forth within one day to save extra hotel costs). The cost is about 45EL (back only 30 EL). Even the 2nd class is quite convenient. We were the only tourists on the train. It is always important to be in Alexandria as early in the morning as possible as offices open at 9 o'clock in the morning and close at one!

Finally in Alexandria, we took a taxi from the main station to the customs broker's ("fixer") office (Consolidated Freight Service (CFS), Nermien Mamish, nermien_mamish@cfsegypt.com,125, Hurreya Ave., El Radwan Bldg., Bab-Sherk, Alexandria - Egypt., Tel : 002 03 3914671 /2 / 4, Fax : 002 03 3914679 , Mobile : 002 0122 240 4884, Web: www.cfsegypt.com, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cfsegypt).

We went off with Fathi El Said, one of Nermien's colleagues (mail: import1@cfsegypt.com, tel.: 0100 3919333) and first

went to the Immigration Department in Alexandria. There our passports were stamped and signed by an official stating that we were really within Egypt as all private persons shipping cars to Egypt have to be present when the car is freed out of customs.

... and second, we had to go to the Document Verification Department to sign a statement to give the customs brokers power of attourney to be allowed to act on our behalf.

The following documents we had to leave with the customs brokers:
- passport
- Carnet de Passages
- national car registration
- bill of loading

All the rest of the clearance procedures after that is done by the customs brokers who contact you via mail or mobile phone to keep you updated or if they need you to be present in Alexandria. We went back to Cairo.

In our case, the ship did not arrive as expected (it took six days to reach Alexandria, the shipping agency stated three to six days). As the name of the ship is on the bill of loading, you can use "AIS" to track the ship (see http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ ).

Finally, we had to come back to Alexandria on the second working day after the ship had docked in Alexandria and had to present ourselves to customs. The team at CFS then started the customs procedures on that very day so that we could get the Land Rover back the following day, within three working days after docking as promised by Nermien Mamish. A bit problematic was the fact that we had to leave so much gear in the cars, because they have to officially be empty. One should definitely not leave any money, food or medication in the car. Money and medication can easily be taken on the plane. We blocked the rear door to make stealing more difficult ... and only one petrol lamp was stolen.

On the day we got out the car, the VIN and engine numbers were checked, we got the Egyptian registration and license plates, got two 6kg fire extinguishers (mandatory even if you have some already), had to pay for port storage (paid for by CFS), show up at customs and - after about three hours of going here and there, sitting and drinking tea - I was able to drive out of the port, fuel up (at 0,22€ per litre!) and do the first 200 and something kilometres of our Transafrica trip.

The English family were not as lucky as we are because all Landcruisers have to be checked not only by police, customs and traffic department, but also by the military who have the power to decide and even reject cars which then could even mean that they would have to be shipped back to where they came from. This is due to the fact that recently a lot of Landcruisers have been car-jacked and used for terrorist purposes. In the best case, this means a delay of another three to ten days.

For the complete process it is absolutely necessary to have a mobile phone with an Egyptian number. We got local Sim cards at a vodafone shop for 41EL (500 min without data; 141EL for 500 min with 7,5GB data). Make sure that your phone is not Sim-locked before traveling to Egypt!

For going to all customs, police and other offices, I would advise everybody to dress properly (i.e. long trousers, proper shoes and shirt) and be able to greet and say thank you et cetera in Arabic. Mutual respect can speed up the process as well, I am sure!

We would highly recommend taking a "fixer" (i.e. customs broker or freight forwarder) unless you speak fluent Arabic and exactly know all the procedures. Nermien Mamish, Fathi El Said and their team did a great job and their speed (three working days) impressed even expats who have been living here in Egypt for decades! We highly recommend them!

Of course, the team at CSF can also arrange shipping cars in the opposite direction!

 

Costs:

customs broker Greece 30,00 €  
port storage Pireias 6,47 € i.e. 3,24 € per day
costs Minoan 116,85 €  
shipping costs 309,00 €  
customs broker Egypt 870,00 €  
port costs Alexandria (storage et cetera) 79,03 € 658,00 EL
costs shipping 1.411,35 €  
flights 694,00 €  
train tickets 12,61 € 105,00 EL
costs including flights and trains 2.117,96 €  

 

Egypt … First Impressions: Cairo, “the victorious”

 

القاهرة

 
 
 

What exactly were our expectations of Egypt? The only "background" we had before coming here was based on our history lessons at school (20 years ago), on what the current media in Europe state about the security and political situation in the country, and on the touristy picture with diving, Hurghada and harassment of female European tourists by Egyptian men. All in all, this image was rather square till negative!

Our arrival in Cairo is unexpectedly quiet and unagitated: we arrive at a nearly deserted airport, all the people we meet are extremely friendly and our luggage is not checked by anybody (not at all!).

During the taxi ride to our friend's place in New Cairo, we experience the Egyptian traffic for the first time. The roads are cramped-full of cars, everything is very fast and accompanied by a cacophony of car horns which has no equal. Ghost drivers are rather normal, any speed limits are adjusted to the current circumstances, scratches and dents in cars are not stressing anybody. Still, it seems that traffic-aggressivity only seems to play a rather minor part, if any at all. Everything is based on some kind of secret and mysterious choreography, cars are navigated by sight and ears, and honking is communication instead of it being a way to express irritation and anger. How will we succeed here in this traffic-chaos when we have our Land Rover back!?

 
 

On our first afternoon excursion to the basar Khan en-Khalili in the old quarters of Cairo, apparently the largest basar in the complete Middle East (I thought we were in Africa?) we wander mightily impressed through the labyrinth of small and even smaller lanes, the kid's eyes getting bigger and bigger being so very impressed by the wonders of 1001 nights around them.

 
 

We are amazed that the majority of the people around us are Egyptians and not tourists. Of course, we are constantly being approached by dealers and bargainers waiting for customers in front of their shops. However, they are friendly and polite without any exception and their "intrusiveness" is more than comprehensible in a country in which rather suddenly 75% of all tourists have stopped away. Every hard-earned Egyptian Pound secures the survival of families ... for another day, for how long howsoever! But after a "No, Thanks!" from us, the reaction nearly always is "Welcome to Egypt!".

 
 

In the café which for sure did not look so much different in the old Ottoman times, we indulge in fresh mango juice, coffee, houmous, falafel and delicious deserts - we don't miss alcohol at all!

Sóley has been wanting to go to a mosque for ages, so we also include this into our tour even though it has darkened by now. Mischa and Sóley go into the men's part and Juliane and Anouk into the part reserved for women. While we are trying to organise ourselves, Sóley suddenly gets lost ... and an Egyptian lady straightaway brings her back, who seems to be reminding me as a father that I should take care of my children. Juliane asks a young woman in the street to show her how to put on the headscarf properly and on we go! In the men's part it is very quiet and Mischa and Sóley sit down on the carpeted floor next to one of the mighty pillars that support the roof to take in this impressively vast prayer room. There is a peaceful silence around which "sounds" like learning, meditation and philosophical conversation instead of ringing from religious agitation. Juliane at first has problems getting into the women's part because she doesn't have any money on her for the people who take care of the shoes. After a small anteroom they enter a room, half used by men and half by women which is very loud and crowded. In the middle is a cubical cross-barred "thing" at which the people seem to be praying. In spite of that, mothers sit on the floor chatting into their mobile phones with their kids playing around them. One lady hands out sweets to everybody. It is loud, bustling, crowded, there is a lot of gossiping. Back on the way out, Juliane has to stand in line to get her shoes back. When the old guy there finds out that she doesn't have any money to pay him, she is being snarled at by him in Arabic with a gloomy look on his face. Only when she is able to answer in English ("My husband has the money!") the reply is "Ferenji" ("foreigner") and a young man lets her go out.

Without the headscarf Juliane has eye-contact and people on the street address her, pay compliments and want to sell things. But here and there some men go beyond what's acceptable, such as the barber, who tries to steal a kiss from Juliane. But these experiences are rather rare! Wearing a headscarf, Juliane has less eye contacts, is less addressed at ... it is just a bit like a magic hood. She says that it is actually rather relaxed wearing a headscarf, because she can observe more and has to react less to other people.

 

The Muhammad Ali Mosque

 
 

Muhammad Ali Mosque - courtyard

 
 

Muhammad Ali Mosque - courtyard

 

Inside the Muhammad Ali Mosque

Inside the Muhammad Ali Mosque

Inside the Muhammad Ali Mosque

Inside the Muhammad Ali Mosque

During our excursions to different districts, always first by taxi and then on foot, we incidentally experience the Egyptian police as being xtremely friendly and obliging. Sometimes it is a small smile or a friendly "Salam", which regularly conjures a smile on their faces. Everybody seems to be liking our kids.

 
 

In front of the old synagogue of Cairo in direct neighborhood of mosques and ancient churches, we stop and get into a conversation with two policemen. We take photos of each other and the uniform hats are being put on the kids' heads. We drink tea together. Apart from the friendliness of the people we here realize that Egypt is looking down on a long Jewish and Christian tradition in addition to it being a Muslim country.

 

The story goes that this is the place where Moses was found in his basket by the Egyptian princess ... a birthplace of three religions alike.

 

Maybe, the old Egypt was the first country in which Christianity gained a foothold in roundabout 50 A.D. Today, still about 10% of the population are members of the different Christian churches. Open hostility we don't witness anywhere but we only have been here for a very short while!

The view of the city is as diverse as it's inhabitants: there are extremely dirty places and very clean and tidy ones next to each other. Ancient, sometimes ruined buildings alternate with glittering shopping malls which appear to be European. Next to beautifully ornated mosques we see Roman ruins.

 

The entrance gate to the "Lakeview Compound" in New Cairo

 

Life in the "Compound"

Life in the "Compound"

Juliane and Zainab, housemaid and nanny ... and extremely nice!

Group Photo of us travelers and the Zuidberg family (only Bas is missing!).

 

Anouk doing her homework.

 

The people here live tightly packed, or - just like we do at the moment - in the cordoned off and guarded "compound". We notice that a large number of houses remain unfinished, which is because on the one hand, a man has to build a house before he is allowed to marry to show that he is able to provide a home for his future family (otherwise there is no wedding!), and on the other hand nobody here is paying off debts for a house but goes on completing it whenever there is the money for the next steps. People invest in real estate instead of putting the money on the bank.

 
 

Old ... or just a workshop for touristy knick knack?

... would love to go there and find out what this place actually is!

We are captured by the diversity of this city and by the cheerful-friendly slyness of the people. Because of this it is not that terrible that we will have to wait for some more days until we will get our Land Rover out of customs in Alexandria.

 
 

Just a few days away from the “big step” to Africa …

After having taken a holiday-break from traveling between visiting the island of Lefkhada and the Peloponnes during the last two to three weeks, more and more preparation work for the onward journey and the big step to Africa sneeks in. Of course, ahead of traveling to Greece we had gathered all information on the route, visa matters et cetera. Still, now the shipping of our cars to Egypt and the visa for Sudan and Ethiopia have to be concretized and organised. The really great thing about overlanding is that you are supported in that process by many people who before were completely unknown to you.

One of them, Konstantinos, member of the international "Land Rover Family", helps us very energetically to make sure that shipping our cars from Pireias in Greece to Alexandria in Egypt will really work. At the other shore of the Mediterranean, Bas and Herman Zapp do all they can for us with the help of their experiences, personal contacts and local communication. We feel in good hands in this network of overland travelers (and especially in those of other overlanding families)!

 

Our invitation letter for Sudan has arrived!

 

In spite of this help we have to update all pieces of information on the visa for Sudan and Ethiopia and at the same time many emails are going back and forth to get invitation letters for Sudan and Ethiopia which are maybe not absolutely necessary to get the visa, but still can speed up the process immensely.

First German-English camp

Let's winch the kids back home, darling!

Parallel to this extensive organisational work which actually is real fun for Mischa, we meet an English family in Delphi whom we had before only met on the internet but have planned to travel together through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and northern Kenia.

Delphi, another magic place in Greece!

Our first photo of the "new team".

Living and working together in the camp with the Mittons instantly works like a charm and it seems that from the professional and personal background, but also concerning gear and travel preparation we supplement each other greatly. At the same time, we discover many private similarities.

 

Meeting Dominik Schenke who is doing "our" route by bicycle

 

Back in Athens, we spend our last few days on the European continent in a hostel situated directly in the historic district of "Plaka". The touristy bustle on the streets certainly needs getting used to after so many weeks in the countryside, but we can do all the transactions, shopping et cetera that are on our lists and also indulge in wonderful Greek food.

We meet Anna again and go on a tour through the Turtle Rescue Station.

Aphrodite's Temple

On the 4th October we celebrate Sóley's 3rd birthday ... the programme consists of a visit to the Akropolis and spending time on a playground ... it is impressive for adults and kids alike!

 

At the custom's warehouse in the port of Pireias

 

On monday we drop our cars at the port of Pireias from where they will be shipped to Alexandria in Egypt on Thursday. This day, which has been expected with a lot of excitement, unexpectedly turns out to be rather relaxed one and even reasonable concerning the costs (here are the details concerning the shipping).

Well, and on Wednesday, tomorrow, we will fly to Cairo and will stay at Bas' place, also a new internet-friend who also loves overland travel and plans to do Cairo - Capetown soon as well and who has massively supported us during the last weeks in preparing for te shipping of our cars to Egypt.

Sometime in roundabout one week, we will hopefully be comfortably sitting in our cars traveling along the River Nile to Ethiopia.

Shipping Cars from Greece to Egypt – Part One

 

The other cars do look cool ... but still I'd always go for the Land Rover!

 

Today, we have handed over our car(s) at Pireias port ... this is how we made it:

Long before even the beginning of our trip in July, I had tried several times to reach several Grimaldi offices in Italy, Greece and Turkey. It was always the same procedure: whenever I sent an email, there was no answer, when I phoned them, they told me to send an email ... and then there again was no answer. Finally, after a lot of unnecessary fuss, a friend from Cairo called the Grimaldi office in Egypt (contact details: "Rasha" (export department), phone:+20 3 4863647, email: export@smarina.com), and suddenly, there were answers. Sometimes, Africa is not so bad after all!

Here in Greece, it was again the same situation: we sent emails and nobody replied. Luckily a Greek friend helped us immensely and continuously contacted Grimaldi via email and phone, and suddenly, everything worked. So, I would highly recommend everybody who wants to ship their car to Egypt with Grimaldi, to find persons local to where the Grimaldi office is to help with the communication. 

Handing over the cars ...

The procedure: We had to first go to the customs office at the G2 car terminal in Keratsini. The address (G2 car terminal, Ichtioskala, Keratsini), though, could not be found on our Garmin GPS (if you type it in in Greek letters in Google maps, though, you will find it). Finally arriving there, the customs officials told us that we needed a customs broker and contacted one for us. We had hoped that we would not need one, as we expected an expensive rip-off here, but this recommendation really was a good one: the customs broker that helped us, actually only wanted 30€ per car for his services (we had another offer for 150€ per car, so it is really good to compare prices!).

Here are the contact details: Georgios Kapelas, Akti Ionias 36, Keratsini 18755 (Garmin has this address!), phone: 210 4314886, mail: kapelas@ektelonismoi.gr

They were extremely helpful and all we had to do was sign some papers and wait for about two hours.

The documents needed here were:
- car registration
- passports of the car's owner
- Carnet de Passages (they did not ask for us to bring it in advance but we brought it and it was really important to have it there)

In addition to the 30€ per car for the customs broker, we paid another 6,47€ per car for the port storage of our cars for two days. So, that was 36,47€ instead of over 150€!

After that we brought the cars into the customs warehouse-part of the harbour which is just next doors to the custom's broker's office. There, only the VIN-numbers were checked and we could drop them there and hand over the keys.

We, then could proceed and go to the office of Minoan Lines SA in Pireus who act as Grimaldi agents in Pireus.

This is the address and the name of the lady who helped us there:
Mrs. Xanthi Nannou
Grimaldi Car Carriers &  RoRo Piraeus Agency
MINOAN LINES SA,  As Agents only
Thermopylos 6-10
18545 Piraeus
Τel.     0030 – 210 – 4145720
grimaldi.ccrr.pir@minoan.gr

Everybody there was very helpful and after another hour, we were free to leave. The total costs  were 116,85€ for the service at Minoan Lines and another 309,00€ for the shipping (sea freight: 307,00 € per van; stamp b/l : 2,00€ per shipment; free in: 95,00€ + VAT per van under 3to (over 3to the cost of driving the car up the ship is 235 + VAT))

We did not need any other documents than stated above, but were asked to give our VAT number (i.e. our German/English tax numbers) ... as I did not have it they simply did not add it on the document.

The only other thing that is important is that during all procedures the owners of the car (i.e. us) had to be present.

Fixer in Alexandria:
We don't know what we will have to expect in Alexandria ...
We thought that it might be important to find a customs broker ("fixer") for Alexandria as well. As the prices here vary immensely from fixer to fixer (we even had a ridiculous offer of US$ 5500 per car!) it is good to compare the prices. The customs broker we chose is Nermien Mamish who was recommended to us by Herman Zapp and is highly recommended on the HUBB ("Horizons Unlimited"). We will have to pay 870€ for her services (including all port & traffic charges, plates & receipts; excluding only Carrier DTHC (discharging cost)).
The expected duration of the clearance for the two cars will be 2-3 working days.

These are her contact details:
Nermien Mamish
Managing Partner - MBA,
nermien_mamish@cfsegypt.com
Consolidated Freight Service (CFS).
125, Hurreya Ave.
El Radwan Bldg.
Bab-Sherk
Alexandria - Egypt.
Tel : 002 03 3914671 /2 / 4
Fax : 002 03 3914679 
Mobile : 002 0122 240 4884
Website : www.cfsegypt.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cfsegypt 

Needed documents for entry procedures in Alexandria (we sent them in in advance as scans):
- passport
- Carnet de Passages
- car license (i.e. the car registration documents)
- shipping line BL ("Bill of Loading")

Other documents that might be needed
- visas
- national and international driver's licenses
- vaccinations certificates (yellow fever)
- a list with all spares and tools on board
- a list with all electronic equipment on board (cameras, GPS, sat. phones...etc.) with serial numbers.

...

We have extremely "itchy feet" now and are so much looking forward to finally make the "big step" to Africa, going to Egypt and proceeding down south through Sudan and Ethiopia ...

We just hope that our cars will reach Alexandria unpilfered and undamaged ... Anouk, after me telling her that now the car is going to be shipped to Egypt ALONE, told me that the Land Rover is a family member not to be left alone! ...