Our time skirting the Red Sea has come to an end and we are now gaining altitude. A steady climb, today’s stage followed a road nestled amid dusty, corrugated mountains. In previous years, this stretch has been particularly difficult due to strong headwinds. I was stationed at a rest stop, 100km into the ride. This is where I met Mustafa.
An Egyptian policeman, he and his crew wore wool sweaters and long johns while the sun battered our post. I could barely tolerate the sun with a thin undershirt. He puffed a hookah as we spoke. With each inhale, the glass base echoed with bubbles, only to end with a plume of smoke escaping from each nostril.
As riders came and went, we snacked on typical Egyptian morsels; their favorite being foul. Don’t let the name fool you, foul is a delicious bean dish similar to hummus. Served with copious amounts of vegetable oil, the dish is complemented with chili powder and other ground herbs. With a fork to further mash the beans and mix the dish, it will satisfy any hunger, even that of a TDA rider.
Riders lucked out with a tailwind for the better part of the day. We are a day away from Luxor and everyone is anxious for our first rest day. This will be a time to reflect upon the past six, and to prepare our bodies for the next stretch.