Thu January 03 2013  —  e-mail Manfred

Back to Cairo, the desert west, Sinai and CAN.

Flag Egypt Cairo, taxi ride.

Monday, February 01 2010

5 years, 6 months, 10 days

Cairo, Egypt

About Travel Photography,
Colors of the World.

Manfred is creator of ThisFabTrek.com, travel photography, a travel blog and a photography blog (a journey from 2004 to 2013). 'I set out to see the colors of the world, always I try to capture the colors'.

Seeing, is understanding, so I report and photograph, but formost enjoy and live those different conceptions of life (all that TV [and the web] cannot give). I reject jealousy, animosity, bigotry. Be free!

Manfred in the desert of the Western Sahara

The mind, when pondering at night and always asked those questions. What am I doing in corporate wonderland of bank, university, office or church? Who is the other animal asleep deep inside, the thinker, punk, creative, or Indian, vagabond and healer, maybe artist, writer, photographer, traveler, globetrotter? Oh God, dare you to think. When I saw the lies, gambles and manipulations I follow the old dream and set out for the journey of life lived, the journey to see the colors of the world.

During years on the road I have taken the turns as they came along, and realized one thing: Only such a small part of the planet can be explored and such a vast land and sea mass will always remain unknown, to me; many swamps, jungles, deserts and oceans will never be traveled. But then I am father of twin boys, Daniel and David, my most important, and I show them some of the wonders and colors out there.

ThisFabTrek, Photography and Journey, the Stories from the Road and Life around the World, stopped in August 2013 after more than 9 years, Love and Peace.

Last vehicle.

G20, Chevy Gladiator.

Chevrolet Gladiator G20, The boys in Cordillera Blanca, Peru.
The boys and Chevy van, Peru.

The G20, the vehicle that came to me for the Americas adventures.

6 wheeled Land Rover.

Land Rover Defender 6x6
Link to Foley

The vehicle of the Africa adventures, a Foley 6-Wheeled Land Rover Defender.

Before, the MB307.

Manfred and MB307
Journey, Middle East.

The vehicle of the Middle-East and North-Cape Journeys. See all vehicles.

Daniel and David with nanny Aisha, the best we ever had, black African Woman carrying white twin babies, in Bamako, Mali.

Current MB307 24,311km

Trekking 508km

Ferry 1,668km

Train 4,138km

Land Rover 73,588km

Other cars 95,699km

Travel Blog

contains Festival/Fiesta/Art photography.

"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo.

"What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it, to tell the tale." Living to Tell the Tale - Gabriel García Márquez.

"They never taught wandering in any school I attended. ... they never taught the art of writing a book, either. It's all so mysterious."
"Wandering is an art in itself. Wandering and writing don't mix"
"Writing demands commitment and if one thing your wanderer is allergic to is that very quality of commitment, for once one is committed he runs that very risk of failure ..." Wanderer - Sterling Hayden.

"Photography enables you to grasp a place first time round. ... Photography is a means of exploration, it's a vital part of travel, almost as essential as a car or a plane. " - Wim Wenders.

"The worst prejudice we acquire during our youth is the idea that life is serious. Children have the right instincts: they know that life is not serious, and treat it as a game..." , Egon Friedell.

"How far you gonna go. Before you lose your way back home" - Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World, Achtung Baby, U2.

"If you want to be a hero well just follow me." - Working Class Hero, John Lennon.

"When I think of all the things I have done, I know that it's only just begun." - I love you, Lou Reed.

"One does not escape the Sahara - the Sahara let's you go or not" - Touareg.

"Planet earth is blue and there`s nothing I can do" - This is Ground Control to Major Tom, David Bowie.

"Glory for the crazy people/in this stupid world" - Ahmed Fouad Negm.

www.thisfabtrek.com > journey > africa > egypt > 20100201-cairo

To the Western Desert, Bagdad, El-Kharga, Dakhla, Faranfra, for not much.

Map, Egypt.

Download GPS (KML) track/waypoints.

The new friends in Luxor invite me for dinner, one more last time, next morning I leave Luxor, I need to find my way back to Cairo, need sort out my car paperwork. I have been nearly one month in the country. My chosen route takes me west into the desert. "Bagdad 145" reads a sign on road to the El-Kharga oasis. The road is long and tiring, featureless, looks mostly like construction rubble near the road. The tabletop mountain to the left is always far away. I do 500km from Luxor to Dakhla, which I find a bit smoggy when sun has set already. There is a fine restaurant, Ahmed Hamdy; I am so hungry, eat so much; soup, salad, tahini, chicken, rice and spinach.

Bagdad 145km sign, desert road Egypt.
Bagdad 145km sign, desert road Egypt.
Desert road and road sign Egypt.
Road and road sign.
Broken asphalt desert road Egypt.
Broken asphalt.
Me driving in Egypt.
Me driving in Egypt.
Brick burning chimneys, Dakhla oasis town, sunrise behind, southern Egypt.
Brick burning chimneys, Dakhla, sunrise.

The morning reveals part of the cause for the smog, brick burning chimneys, burn and smoke in the sunrise.

Not far is Al-Qasr, Islamic village, Said shows me round for small baksheesh, leads me through its alleys, "mind your head", he has the keys for the corn mill, olive press and madrasa (school), complete with prison cell. The mud mosque calls back memories of Djenne, Mali. The minaret is Abuuyid, 1000 years old. I climb the old stairs to its top, is a quiet morning, I am alone here.

Dakhla Islamic village Al-Qasr. Minaret tower.
Islamic village. Minaret.
Minaret Al-Qasr. Egypt.
Minaret Al-Qasr. Egypt.
Al-Qasr.
Al-Qasr.
Al-Qasr, cerial mill.
Al-Qasr, cerial mill.
Mosque, minaret, Al-Qasr.
Mosque, minaret, Al-Qasr.
Open minaret, Al-Qasr.
Open minaret, Al-Qasr.
Medersa, Al-Qasr.
Medersa, Al-Qasr.
Said AL-Qasr.
Said AL-Qasr.
New mosque AL-Qasr.
New mosque AL-Qasr.

Me in Egyptian hamada.
Me in Egyptian hamada.
Desert road in Egypt.
Desert road in Egypt.

I head on. It is a nice drive, I expect a lot for the remainder of the day. Approaching Faranfra oasis however the air becomes more humid/foggy, the White Desert then is completely overcast. To bring a desert to life it takes light, the conditions today, a joyless grey experience, no luck with photos. No point to hang about. I roll 900kms straight into Cairo. Only after sunset the skies turn red, I have been to the desert with a car with no name. Give me Sakara! my beer, though it is hard to attract the waiters’ attention, on TV the Angola Africa cup has commenced.

Me on road in southern Egypt.
Me on road in southern Egypt.
German Norbert on bike, southern Egypt.
German Norbert on bike, southern Egypt.
Hamada desert.
Hamada desert.
Me in White Desert.
Me in White Desert.
Black desert heap.
Black desert heap.
End of day.
End of day.

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Days in Cairo, Smog and bureaucracy.

I come to Cairo on the 14th of Jan - and Christina (wordpress) is here again, back from a month in Yemen. She intends to stay.

Cairo is all smog, this is winter, cold, clouds; some rain is expected for the weekend. I like it.

Cairo and smog, couple on bridge.
Cairo and smog, couple on bridge.
Smog in Cairo.
Smog in Cairo.
Cairo, Nile, smog.
Cairo, Nile, smog.
Cairo, street, smog, veilled girls crossing.Tahrir square.
Veilled girls, Tahrir square.
Four men sit on a railing in Cairo, looking out on Nile.
Look out on Nile.
Black diesel smoke, Cairo traffic.
Black diesel smoke, Cairo traffic.

After a month in Egypt I need to get my papers sorted. Extending the Visa is really easy, takes 2 hours, for 3 months or 6 months, no problem; costs next to nothing.

Doing the car papers turns out to be a bit more of a hassle, actually really difficult (in my case) and eventually undoable (in my case, because of a number discrepancy). I find the customs office that actually deals with it out on the airport (taxi), after having been to another office (taxi). I am assigned a guy, Karim, he buys a half a dozen of papers, makes dozens of copies, we buy insurance for 520 E£, (Egyptian Pounds, 1 USD is 5 E£, 1 EUR is 8 E£), is looking good, then I need to come back with the van, the next day. I pay 50 E£ to Karim head back 20km to downtown, by bus now.

I am back on the airport the next morning. I wait for Karim. No way to do that on my own, understand/read the language, understand the process and system. He comes eventually. He gets permissions and some stamps and signatures on second and first floor, buys some more paperwork for a few pounds, we get a tea, drink, wait, he smokes, you want to be prepared.

Now we enter the yard for checking actual car numbers (chassis, engine) with paper numbers and they find that the actual engine number doesn’t match with the engine number on the carnet. This is not good. Nobody cares in Europe what engine is in the car? Egyptian bureaucracy does and now starts its real munch; 50 or so papers, 50 or so signatures, vistas and permissions from offices yard, 1st floor and 2nd floor; from left to right and back to the car park and all the way back up to the 2nd floor. Like exercise, 3 copies, 5 copies and more copies, 2 E£ here for papers, 5 E£ for copies and so on, 1 E£ for tea for my guy, 1 E£ for a my own tea, 13 E£ here and more there. Another 5 E£ for more copies and some change for the guy leaning at the door. At some point the chief of the helpers calls the chief of the offices, some colonel, we go and see him. Another 5-10 offices later I get my carnet back with one additional month granted, I pay 1050 E£. What do you want, is for a whole month? Another guy who presents himself as the brother of Karim starts hanging around us, Mustafa, an idiot, he wants to help as well (and later money). He babbles constantly. Back to insurance, I get my 520 E£ back from insurance, oh this is not bad. All has its order. I don’t need it as I won’t get my car papers completed. What does that mean?

My guy Karim, wants another tea, Mustapha too, - I need to get rid of him. How good are my papers now? The idiot is certainly disturbing for my understanding. Well, we need to drive first to another office to get a no claims certificate. OK, a good chance to get rid of the new guy, who strangely doesn’t understand why I am not taking him, as he is the brother. There is a rule, never believe this!

My helper and I leave for the other office in Cairo town, get there after another 30 minutes the no-claims paper what-ever it is worth it. I pay Karim another 200 E£ for all his help, I could not have done without him. But he advises me I have to go to Nuweiba on the Gulf of Aqabah (is where I entered) and have my car papers finalized, only they can correct the mistake in the vehicle documents. The important thing is my customs/carnet papers are ok; I do not dare asking whether I should drive without insurance.

So how good are my papers?

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Drive to Nuweiba and back.

Giza Pyramids.
Giza Pyramids.

So there Christina and I go and see the Great Pyramids in Giza; want to at least have seen the pyramids, who knows how far I get with the papers I have. The pyramids are a fantastic sight this morning, majestic, sound architecture, built to outlast time; why exactly they were built is still so much a theme of speculations. Once we wonder out into the desert and escape the so well known busses and masses and associated hassles, serenity sets in and the scope of the task of what it took to achieve organising and constructing these monuments becomes even more phenomenal, in four and a half millennia no one else has attempted similar. Cairo town lies to the east a bit cloudy, some rain this morning; more rain is expected.

After entering the heart of Cheops/Khufu, and I don’t feel any special energy, just the lack of Oxygen, but some go in there to pray, we set out, drive East, traverse Cairo, past the airport, leave the smog behind, through the tunnel under the Suez canal, enter Sinai. There is a lot of water next to the road, a lot of mud on the road, darkness falls, it is dangerous to drive, there’s a truck half submerged where the road gave in to the waters. Heavy rains and associated flash floods in Eastern Egypt have caused death and destruction. But we are lucky. The road is open, apart from debris, mud and rocks dry when we go through.

Submerged Truck, Sinai Jan 2010 flash floods.
Submerged Truck, Sinai Jan 2010 flash floods.

Nuweiba at 11 at night, delicious food is found at Dr. Shish Kebab. We pour a good whisky in our cokes under the table. Road was so wearying.

In Nuweiba customs, I find a good bunch of higher officers; one speaks English well, gives me his phone number and explains. The papers are what they are. I should not worry too much and enjoy my time in Egypt. The police on the street do not understand so much about tourist’s customs papers, "just get a bit loud with them" he advocates. I thank him so much, I don’t dare asking how to do without insurance.

So we drive back, papers still only half good, no insurance. The road is closed and open and closed again after another bout of rain. The news report 17 dead in rain related floods. Again we get through and arrive back in Cairo. 1000 km for not so much!

Water in the desert, sunset behind tree.
Water in the desert, sunset behind tree.
Mountain road Sinai, mud on road.
Mountain road Sinai, mud on road.
Truck approaches, dust flies, Sinai.
Truck approaches, dust flies, Sinai.

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Days in Cairo, Muslim quarters.

Talat Harp Square. Cairo.
Talat Harp Square. Cairo.
Street sweeper Cairo.
Street sweeper near-by.

Cairo, Nile, skyline, pleasure boats.
Pleasure boats.
Skyline eastbank Nile, Cairo.
Skyline eastbank Nile, Cairo.

I am glad to get a second chance in Cairo, which was a dream destination for so many years. We park again where I stayed before, in Zamalek, the island in the Nile, on the corniche road near the Al-Gezira Sports Club, near the El-Pasha restaurant, which is apparently the best restaurant in Egypt, 3rd best in Africa; an Egyptian friend would once invite us there, the Italian restaurant (part of El-Pasha’s 5 or so restaurants), I can confirm it serves pretty good food. The El-Pasha (or is it Le Pasha) boat also houses Jonnies Pub, where the good-looking and better-off all have the obligatory Jonny Walker Black on the table, music around midnight becomes loud, a mix of oriental, lounge, salsa, it is not expensive, unless you have a bottle of Black Label. A nice surrounding, el-Zamalek, but how/why did I come especially right here. Well was the only parking that I could find on my first day back in December the 23rd that morning when I arrived. The only street with free spaces after touring for 6 hours! Restaurants have no clients in mornings. All is packed in evenings, the honking and shouting of the park guys usually goes on till 3 a.m.

Cairo, now I have some time for you, a bit more time, 3 weeks and a bit. And these 3 weeks would rush by in no time. I force myself everyday through my Read and Write Arabic book; am actually making some progress recognise the letters. But more than anything else I want people, understand how people live. So there we go every other day over the bridge, from Zamalek to the East, Tahir Square, Talat Harp Square, and very often further east into the Muslim quarters, especially around Friday prayers, to the Coptic churches on Sundays, also to the Egyptian museum, but more to that later. And there would be always a lot more to do.

Every day we eat falafel (fried seasoned chickpea paste balls), fried eggplant, babaganug (paste on eggplant base), always spicy Egyptian pickles to go along, is so cheap and so delicious, also Kushari (special melange of spicy lentils, rice, noodles, tomato sauce, or should it be really spelt French couch à riz?), also sweat potatoes from a street oven. Is all so delicious and cheap!

There is an Indian restaurant in Mohandeseen, named Bukhara, London style Indian cuisine so nice to change sometimes. And there is - Beano’s American coffee chain in Zamalek, I know, but I can plug in my computer and work till late, before having a quick beer or many quick ones in Jonnies on my way home. After a while everybody knows you, the park guys, the Beano’s people, the guy behind the bar, the falafel people, I always like a city once I have found my own little way round.

Bread is cyled in Cairo.
Bread is cyled in Cairo.
Mosque of Sultan Muaiyad Cairo
Mosque of Sultan Muaiyad Cairo
On top of Sultan Muaiyad, Bab Sweila minarets. Other mosques in distance, smoggy Cairo.
Sultan Muaiyad, Bab Sweila minarets. Smog.
Sultan Al Ghuri, mosque, madrassa. Cairo Islamic quarter.
Sultan Al Ghuri, mosque, madrassa.
Derb el-Ahmer souk, Cairo.
Derb el-Ahmer souk.
Oranges and other fruits sold in street Cairo.
Oranges and other fruits sold in street.
Friday mosque, police, women, Cairo Al Azhar.
Friday mosque police, Al Azhar.
Muslims leave Al Azhar mosque after Friday prayer, Cairo.
Muslims leave Al Azhar mosque.
Oranges, bananas, Cairo
Oranges, bananas, Cairo
Taxi-ride Cairo.
Taxi-ride Cairo.
Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, Cairo. Mulsims pray.
Mosque of Amr ibn al-As. Mulsims pray.
Walls of Mosque-of-Amr-ibn-al-As. Cairo.
Walls of Mosque-of-Amr-ibn-al-As.
Christina, veile, Cairo.
Christina, veiled in Cairo.
Egypt, fast food.
Egypt, fast food.
Oven, sweat potatoes, Cairo.
Oven, sweat potatoes, Cairo.

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Egypt wins the Football Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, days of riot.

CAN 2010, Cairo Egyptian boy, face painted in Egyptian colours.
CAN 2010, face painted.

There finally, with no forewarning, is usual for such events, the decisive counter with the one genius pass by Mohamed Zidan in an otherwise dull match that has just been dragging on for 85 minutes. A quick pass through the legs of a Ghanaian, and Mohamed Gedo scores nicely into the far right corner.

That was it then. Tears and disbelieve on the Ghanaian side, astounding and only eventually real joy with the Egyptians, not even my pub wants to go as crazy as should here in Cairo so far away from Angola, the localization of the real events. Just when we thought about hanging in on there for another 20 minutes or longer of extra time luck strikes. So I've got to leave my beers and crawl out and take pictures then.

Well Egypt writes history, 3rd win of the CAN, the Coup Afrique des Nations in a row; no one else has achieved this so-far. Egypt today is the greatest nation in Africa and a proud people celebrate on the streets of Cairo till morning and tiredness overtakes again. A couple of 100,000 stop every car or bus, the traffic jam of honking celebrations reaches beyond - well beyond what I see here in Mohandessien. The interesting fact is, hardly any police show up, cordon off or accompany the peaceful victory demonstrations, no alcohol is involved, no hooliganism, no rioting, this is a real family event, with real joy, the olds and veiled women come out, bring babies and children, bratty youngsters, and nobles. And it carries on, seems only I am tired. Welcome to Egypt.

Sara, a friend has maybe captured the better images in Luxor A day at the riots.

Muslim woman whistling, Cairo street celebrations of CAN football 2010 win.
Woman whistling.
Muslim Egyptian woman celebrating football team's victory in streets of Cairo.
Muslim Egyptian woman celebrating.
Egyptian football fans in Cairo, street celebrations, CAN 2010.
Egyptian football fans in Cairo.
Cairo 2010, CAN celebrations of football fans in streets, honking cars, bus.
Fans in streets, honking bus.
Man, woman, child, moped CAN 2010 Egyptian victory celbrations.
Man, woman, child, moped.
Cairo youngsters celebrate teams win 2010 Africa cup of Nations.
Youngsters of all age.

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Days in Cairo. Smog over the roofs and satellite dishes.

There are these days and weeks when u go without it, but then comes a time when you are in dire need for one. The hotel and the shower! This one comes with a view.

Christina pointing over out to wide Cairo.
Christina pointing over out to wide Cairo.
Satelite receivers Cairo. Sun.
Satelite receivers Cairo. Sun.
Minaret smog, dusk-Cairo.
Minaret smog, dusk-Cairo.
Morning, minaret, smog, Cairo.
Morning, minaret, smog, Cairo.
Morning satelite dishes Cairo and smog.
Morning satelite dishes Cairo and smog.
Minaret and smog on  a Cairo morning.
Minaret and smog on a Cairo morning.
Satelite dishes Cairo appartment block roof.
Satelite dishes appartment block roof.
Cairo roof top, satelite dishes.
Cairo roof top, satelite dishes.
Cairo smog and smog.
Cairo smog and smog.

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