March 18-20, 2014
We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Occasional trucks would pass us but this was nothing like the hectic roads we’d left in Cairo. They would pass in the lane beside us and leave plenty of space. If something was coming in the opposite lane, the truck behind us would slow down until it was safe to pass. How enjoyable to share the road with such courteous drivers!
A rare tree. There’s not much growing out in this desert.
Nearly every truck would wave, honk or flash their lights at us. Unbeknownst to us, there was a resthouse about halfway to Bawiti Oasis. When we pulled up, we were hoping that we could have a meal there in addition to buying more snacks.
March 16-17, 2014
Leaving Cairo was easier than we’d expected. There was lots of traffic, but by then we’d figured out how to navigate the hectic mess of cars, animals and people. We passed by the Pyramids for one last look and stopped to ask directions to make sure we were on the right road.
Our last views of Cairo.
Just as we passed by the Pyramids and turned on the road towards the desert, the wind picked up. We’d read other cyclists’ blogs and everyone talked about the fantastic tail wind that pushed them through the desert. Unfortunately for us, we were faced with a brutal head wind.
March 13-15, 2014
We’d been planning to leave at the end of the week, but Uli told us about a cyclist couple arriving in Cairo on Friday. He graciously allowed us to stay a few extra days so we could meet them.
Patriotic promenade along the Nile.
Uli had been talking about wanting to visit Ethiopia while he was still in Africa. We found an Ethiopian restaurant within walking distance of his house and suggested that we take him out to dinner that night. The restuarant wasn’t obvious and we had to search a little to find it. Once we did, we discovered that it was actually a Sudanese restaurant.
March 9-12, 2014
We’d arranged to meet Uli at his house in the afternoon, just across the river. We had the morning to explore the streets some more. Rich, who we’d met back in Cyprus, was in Egypt too and arrived in Cairo that morning from Luxor. He came to meet us at our hostel.
We visit the Pyramids.
Over karkaday (hibiscus tea) Rich told us about his adventures in Luxor. He’d had his cellphone stolen in a cafe in Luxor, a popular scam there targeting Egyptians. Essentially Egyptians were blackmailing other Egyptians, accusing them of sending romantic text messages to another man’s wife. This is a big deal in Egypt, so the targets would pay up, even if they’d never sent any romantic messages. The police wanted to use Rich and his stolen phone to help them catch the criminals.
March 7-8, 2014
We had decided to leave Alexandria on a Friday morning since the streets were deserted. Without having to watch out for all the traffic, leaving the city was a lot easier than arriving. We’d decided to take the Agricultural Road instead of the Desert Road. It was supposed to be a little calmer and there were more places to stop along the way for supplies.
Friday morning and the streets of Alexandria were empty.
If the Agricultural Road was the calmer road of the two, I’m glad we skipped the Desert Road. The road was a divided highway, but it was unclear if there were two or three or four lanes going in either direction since drivers seemed to create lanes as they pleased. Everyone was driving as fast as they could and passed on any and all sides. We had to pay special attention to the donkey carts, motorcycles and occasional car driving the wrong way–directly at us.
March 4-6, 2014
Our last days in Alexandria enjoyed wandering around the city and exploring the different streets. It was always surprising to see how the city came alive at night. We had one important task to take care of which was renewing our visas.
The perfect spot for a relaxing afternoon.
Alexandria was a relaxed city and it seemed like it would be easier to take care of the bureaucracy there than in Cairo. Finding the immigration building was easy, but things inside were pretty chaotic. We were directed to the second floor. There were a few windows and some semblance of a line, but it was so crowded there was almost no room for us.
February 27-March 3, 2014
After being invited to Ramy’s house, Reem wanted us to come eat at her house too. We took the minibus out to Bitosh and Ramy picked us up at the station, as usual. To make the walk a little shorter, we rode the final part in a tuk-tuk. I’d always associated tuk-tuks with Thailand and so was surprised to see them in so many places in Africa.
What a smile!
Reem had obviously spent a long time preparing dinner. While she put the finishing touches on the meal, Yemen showed off his computer games. He was so excited to show all of them to us. As soon as he’d played a minute or two on one game, he closed it to show us the next game.
February 23-26, 2014
Ramy and I had both worked for the same man in Paris and on my first visit to Egypt, we’d finally met up. We became fast friends and I was excited to see him again after over six years.
What a treat to see Ramy again.
The day we arrived, he came out to pick us up at our hotel and it was as though no time had passed. Our friendship had always been defined by meandering conversations that would move from one topic to another seamlessly, hours in a cafe talking about everything under the sun. Of course, we picked up just where we’d left off so many years ago.
February 22-23, 2014
As we left Baltim, we hoped to have a favorable wind that would blow us all the way to Alexandria in one day. Unfortunately, the wind was strong, but blowing right in our faces.
If only the drivers would heed this advice.
Even with the wind, the first stretch of the road was okay for riding. Soon though, we came to the road construction we’d been hearing so much about. All traffic was forced to share one side of the road. We pushed on, trying to hug the non-existent shoulder as best we could. Cars passed us very close and we would often see cars speeding towards each other while trying to pass.
February 21, 2014
From Gamasa, we rode to Baltim, the last resort town on the coast before Alexandria. When we arrived, the town was deserted. We rode around the streets looking for someone to ask about a place to stay.
Baltim was deserted at this time of year.
Luckily for us, as we rode past the only house with signs of life, a young woman ran down the stairs. Sherine, an interpreter and translator, spoke excellent English. She offered to help us arrange an apartment rental in the same building where she was staying, but we had to wait for the owner to return from the mosque.