An Egyptian Encounter - Week 1.

6th of February 2000 (Day 1)

The group assembled at 8:00am in the restaurant where we met our EO Leader (Michael). After recording details of our travel/medical insurance and our next of kin the group traveled by Metro to the Nile Hilton (near the Egyptian Museum) to change money to pay the "local payment" of $230. (EO charge £500UK ($800) for this trip plus a local cash payment of $230. By spliting the payment this way EO avoid the need to transfer large amounts of cash to their leaders.)

Our Leader at work.
The Egyptian Museum

The trip proper started with a visit to the Egyptian Museum. The museum is said to contain more than 100,000 items, however whilst many of the exhibits are stunning the organization, layout, and lighting of the museum leaves a lot to be desired. Entrance is E£20 ($5.75) plus E£10 ($2.85) for a still camera.

Highlights include the Tutankhamun galleries and the royal Mummy room (E£40 extra).

In the afternoon we visited Old Cairo (including Coptic Cairo) the Hanging Church (closed for repair) the Citadel (including the Mosque of Mohammed Ali and distant views of the Pyramids) and the Bazaar (including lots of tourist rubbish).

Cairo
 

7th of February 2000 (Day 2)

We left the hotel by coach with our luggage for the trip to the Giza Pyramids. Having been warned of the hassle to expect around the pyramids the reality was surprisingly impressive. Although the Pyramids and the Sphinx are in the suburbs of Cairo, once we were on the Giza plateau it was easy to ignore Cairo in the background. We had an excellent guide (organised by EO). Most of us had lunch at the splendid Pizza Hut overlooking the Sphinx.

Giza

We were collected after lunch by Michael in the truck with our luggage (this was the first time we had seen the truck). The general group response to the truck (latter christened Agent Orange) was very favorable.

Agent Orange
Zoser's Step Pyramid

Our fist trip in Agent Orange was to Saqqara about 25km south of Cairo. Michael's attempt to get the entire group in as geography students (with me as the "professor") was, alas, unsuccessful and we had to pay the standard E£20 ($5.75) fee. The main attraction being the 4700 year old Zoser's Step Pyramid, the forerunner of the true pyramids.

The group then returned to Giza to our first camp site at the Motel Salma(?).

Here we were instructed by Michael in the art of tent erection, kitchen setup, and hygienic washing up! We also bought 72 bottles of Stella, only 4 of which were not drunk by the end of the trip.

In the evening we returned to the Pyramids at Giza for a "Sound and Light" show. Whilst the grandeur of the setting did overcome the very crass commentary, it was a close run thing.

How to put up a tent?
 

8th of February 2000 (Day 3)

Up at 7:00am for the first real drive of the trip to Alexandria (about 250km). The main impression of the road was the vast quantity of shabby roadside advertizing.

Checked into the Holiday Hotel (large clean rooms with hot showers) (GPS). The truck was parked outside the hotel, starting in the middle of the street and moved, step by step, towards the curb as other vehicles left. A process that took several hours.

Lunch was improvised from the truck's supplies and eaten in one of the rooms.

The truck outside the Holiday Hotel

After lunch most of the group set out to find Alexandria's most famous attraction the Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa. Built in the second century AD the catacombs are 35m below ground level and housed 300 corpses. Very impressive.

In the evening the group spent well over an hour searching for a recommended fish restaurant and failing to agree a satisfactory price (within the EO budget). Eventually the group returned to a cheaper restaurant near the hotel.

Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa

After the meal the sensitive mater of allocating roles to members of the group and establishing cooking teams was tackled. After an introduction by Michael the meeting was ably chaired by Ron ("Do you want to check in?") using a mixture of logic ("lets have at least one person who can cook in each team") and chance (Paper - Stone - Scissors).

The result was four cooking teams (of 3,2,2,2), two people allocated to trailer packing and security, four to kitchen setup, one to window washing and two to kitchen hygiene.

Each cooking team was responsible for a days meals starting with lunch.

In practice because the group was small and very cooperative there was great flexibility in who did what. Some members of the group were so keen to cook that "assistance" was provided whenever possible! Too many cooks can spoil the broth (and even the rice).

 

9th of February 2000 (Day 4)

The drive from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh (291km) was broken at El Alamein for lunch and a visit to the War Museum (surprisingly good) and the Commonwealth War Cemetery.

Commonwealth War Cemetery

On the outskirts of Mersa Matruh, at one of the many police check points, we were given an armed police "guard" who traveled with us for the next few days. We camped at a small bay 23km west of the town (Probably Agiba Beach) (GPS) on what looked like a derelict picnic area.

The preparation of the evening meal revealed that we had a French chef amongst us!

Five or six armed police kept watch over us all night, making night time "excursions" more difficult, particularly for the women. In spite of our best intentions nobody went swimming in the morning.

 

10th of February 2000 (Day 5)

The road from Mersa Matruh to Siwa (300km) whilst narrower than previous roads was still good with only the occasional sand drift across the road.

Siwa oasis is dominated by the 13th century Fortress of Shali, now abandoned after a three-day rain storm in 1926 washed away many of its buildings.

Fortress of Shali

We camped at a warm spring 5km east of Siwa (GPS) where we celebrated Ron's birthday with a cake made secretly in the town.

Most of the group went swimming in the large concrete pool fed by the hot spring. Some had difficulty getting out!

Ron's birthday cake
Siwa hot springs at dawn
 

11th of February 2000 (Day 6)

Because Agent Orange was not four wheel drive in order to venture into the sand dunes south west of Siwa we had to use locally hired jeeps.

Two jeeps were hired and much of the cooking equipment and some food was loaded into the blue jeep. The group then split between the two jeeps and set off to the desert via Fatnas Spring (also known as Fantasy Island, actually a thin promontory into Siwa lake) (GPS) where we had lunch.

Fatnas Spring
Lake Siwa

During the drive into the desert both jeep drivers strove to show off their skills in a game of competitive dune hopping, better than a roller coaster.

The red jeep won (more power, less weight)!

Dune hopping near Siwa
Campfire in the desert

Having rejected an already occupied hot spring site the group opted to camp on a virgin area of sand about 12km from Siwa (GPS) with spectacular views. An evening meal was provided by the jeep owners around a camp fire.

We slept (at least those with good sleeping bags did) under the stars without tents. In the morning we were greeted by a spectacular sunrise.

Sunrise in the desert
 

12th of February 2000 (Day 7)

After returning to Siwa, shopping and re-loading the truck we set off on our dustiest drive yet, south east towards the Bawiti oasis.

After about 270km we wild camped by the road side. (GPS)

Agent Orange Express written in one day's dust in the truck!
 

A Short Commercial Break!

Asad and Ron endorse Saisburys Corn Flakes

Asad and Ron
(who both claim to have permits)
rate Sainbury's Economy Corn Flakes as the best they have ever tasted!

We ran out of them on day 8.

Introduction Week One Week Two Week Three

Home pageLast updated 10th March 2000.