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A Tale of 2 Egypts
Brian reflects on his time with the 2015 Tour d’Afrique:
The 2015 TDA has now entered Sudan and as I get ready to fly home from Cairo to my desk in the Toronto office, it’s time to reflect on our experience in Egypt.
The first week of the tour was challenging to say the least, but not without its highlights. Starting at the Pyramids in Giza is always a thrill and the small Red Sea port town of Safaga offers a short relaxing break from overpopulated and hectic northern/lower Egypt. But the unseasonably cold weather, the pollution along Cairo’s Ring Road, omnipresent and paranoid security, often crazy drivers on the road, and hassling by the touts in Luxor made for a less than memorable experience, that was fortunately forgotten, albeit briefly, on visits to the sites of ancient Thebes which include Karnak and the Valleys of the Kings and Queens.
In’Shallah, our fortunes took a 180 degree turn for the better when we left Luxor. First we cycled on a quiet Friday, the Muslim holy day, to a pleasant new campsite in Idfu. Then we took a new quieter route on the Agricultural road west of the Nile, with the edge of the mother river’s fertile belt on 1 side and the desert on the other, to a Nubian Village camp near Aswan where we began to experience a totally different Egypt.
There we were welcomed by the camp owner Mohammed, armed with cups of tea for the arriving cyclists. The ladies of the camp offered to henna our hands and we truly kicked back in this beautiful and hospitable locale. From there we spun along a tarred road less travelled into the desert, bound for the small town of Abu Simbel along the southern shores of Lake Nasser.
Abu Simbel is renowned as the site of the Nubian Monuments, which were created in the 13th Century BC by Ramses II as an homage to himself and his wife Nefertiti, and then salvaged and moved to their present locale in the 1960s, when the Aswan Dam was constructed, filling Lake Nasser. Once the early morning tourist busses departed the TDA cyclists were virtually alone there, making for a truly stunning experience.
Abu Simbel town itself also proved to be a wonderful breath of fresh air. Friendly locals intrigued by our cycling caravan, a beautiful camp site on the grounds of a small Nubian hotel, and the small maze of nearby shops, offering local wares, fruits, veggies, and cheap lunches of Nile Perch, pita bread and hummus made for a fabulous rest day.
With almost all of Egypt’s 82 million people crammed in the Nile delta and along the shores of the mother river, the first half of our ride through this country will never be peaceful. But now that our route also journeys through Nubia, bound for a new shorter ferry ride across Lake Nasser and towards the Sudan border, our final days in Egypt will be one of the many highlights of the Tour d’Afrique.
1 Comment for "A Tale of 2 Egypts"
Thank you Brian, Sharita and the rest of the team for a wonderful shared adventure.
It was such a privilege to ride with you, Brian – one I hope we can repeat someday.