After Cairo, we wanted to spend some days at the Red Sea relaxing on the beach. The kids loved the beach and playground right outside our room ... we had itchy feet as Upper Egypt and Sudan were waiting.
Traveling through Egypt, we are impressed by the large number of historical sights we can experience nearly without any other tourists. Everywhere there are signs stating that taking photos inside the buildings is forbidden and everywhere the tourist police check all people entering the sights. Still, one can always take the camera inside ... just to be tempted by "guides" to take photos in the most breathtakingly impressive places. As we withstood this temptation, some sights are not represented in this post ... even though we felt the emotional roller coaster! We will keep it in our memories and hearts.
"Adam Home Overland Camp" in Aswan is a wonderful place facing the Nile and the city of Aswan on the opposite river bank. Samy and Mohammad help in any imaginable way and life here is relaxed and quiet.
Upper Egypt is dominated by Nubian culture and people who are extremely open and welcoming and look down on an ancient history.
A Falukah trip to Elephantine Island
During the shipping of our Land Rover from Pireias to Alexandria our beloved Feuerhand petrol lamp was stolen (apart from toilet paar and tissues the only thing that was stolen ... RoRo shipping is not so bad after all!). We tried to find a new petrol lamp on our way through Egypt, but it simply was too "old school" for Egypt. But then, in some Nubian house in a village near Aswan, an old woman had an old unused lamp she was willing to sell. After some polishing this lamp showed its true identity: it is a Feuerhand petrol lamp, made in Germany some time between 1949 and 1989. Everything is possible in Africa - you only have to think positive! We can't wait until the lamp tells more stories when bushcamping.
And then the day came when we had to say "Goodbye!" again. We had a great time with Samy and Mohammed and his family. Thanks for everything!
From Aswan to Abu Simbel we experience our first drive through the Sahara desert. In the North, we went through stony desert with mountains but here now the countryside is flat and sandy ... just like we had imagined. We drive during the midday heat through a landscape full of secret "lakes" ... even the road ahead seems to be flooded like the "Hellerpad" connecting our school with the island's village during a storm tide. Do we see flamingoes there in the far distance? An oasis with camels and palm trees? ... But everything vanishes when we come nearer and no mud-stripes decorate our Land Rover, the fifth family member. What remains is a deep fascination for this barren ecosystem ... and a lot of looking forward to Sudan!
The "Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge" is a charming place, wonderfully decorated, professionally run and full of positive energy. Some food and ingrediences are home grown on site in the small eco farm and the owners and staff are extremely warm, welcoming and willing to help the weary traveller. Overlanders are welcome to camp on the premises.
And then came the absolute highlight of this travel so far
the Abu Simbel Temples
Sometimes, things which are bad for Egypt can be good for us: we had the temples of Ramses and Nefertiti all to ourselves. Completely! What an impressive site ... words simply cannot describe the dimensions and spirit of this place ... truly magical!
The light show was like a fairytale of The Thousand and One Nights told under 1.000.000 stars. Unforgettable!
Egypt – our impressions after 25 days in the country
Whenever we told anybody that we would do Transafrica, most people were very negative when it came to traveling to and through Egypt. When I tried to find out about Howard to ship the Land Rover to Egypt and called an Austrian ferry agent, he downright accused me of being suicidal and irresponsible because I planned to travel with wife and kids ... and hung up before I could even reply.
Certainly, the media reports in Europe being quite negative about Egypt and Muslim countries in general (from my point of view) added their part so that we expected to only transit Egypt. Instead, we spent nearly four weeks there and enjoyed every minute of it.
The question is which country today really is "safe"! I think none is 100%! If you use your common sense, are an open, humble and friendly person and follow instructions from locals, police and military, you will most certainly enjoy Egypt to a degree not imagined beforehand! All the people we met were very helpful. I remember the guy at the Eskaleh lodge in Abu Simbel who left his workplace just to go with us to the hospital to translate for us when our youngest daughter was ill with tonsillitis and when I asked him what I could do for him, he just replied "Take care of your kid, make sure that she recovers!". Whenever we needed a taxi, we could always ask a policeman who made sure that we would not have to wait for even five minutes and also helped negotiating prices.
Certainly, Egyptian street merchants and shop assistants can be a bit annoying, but if you are friendly and joke with them, you will begin to enjoy the many conversations you suddenly have. It is important to understand that they simply have no other chance than to be as straightforward as possible to earn their little money. As the number of tourists has dropped to less than 25% of what it was before, many people are without any income and unemployed. Also, there is a fierce competition about all remaining jobs in Egypt at the moment - in a country without social security, unemployment benefits and public health insurance.
Traveling in Egypt is not problematic at all! Due to the fact that there are so few tourists traveling to and in the country, independent travel is more than easy. You will always find hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses or places to camp for one night and certainly would never have to book in advance. If you book through a company, a large portion of the money you spend on the travel ends up in Europe and not with the people in the country, so we prefer to shop, fuel up, accomodate et cetera as locally as possible to spend the money where it is needed and help supporting jobs.
The traffic is something I had to adapt to and it certainly was good that I had the chance to observe it before joining in myself. It appears that there are no rules and in a way that is true: traffic lights are scarce, there is no right of way and any speed limits are only there it seems to keep the roadsign industry alive. But almost everybody is friendly and will adapt to the movements you make with your car. It is important not to be shy but follow your plans and you will see that you will become part of the secret choreography of Egyptian traffic easily.
Police and military checkpoints also are no problem at all. We always drive with the windows down, take off our sunglasses and take time to chat with police and military. They are always friendly and helpful. Most of them don't understand English but are very happy if tourists try to chat with them and make their day less boring.
It is really sad that at the moment, it is not possible to spend time in the Egyptian (and Sudanese!) desert or on Sinai (at least if you use a 4x4 car) but still there is so very much to explore and see, as Egypt has most diverse landscapes, cultures and historical sights.
We will definitely come back!
Finally, a big "Thank You!" goes to the Zuidberg family, Sam Watson and Jacqui Belcher for their friendship, patience and understanding and for taking care of our first steps in Egypt.