At home in Egypt

Luxor was like diving into another world. The city and the surroundings offer stunning sights. Our favorite sights were the very well preserved temples (e.g. Karnak, etc.) as well as the tombs with beautiful wall paintings (Tutankhamun) in the Valley of the Kings. The absolute highlight was a hot-air balloon flight at sunrise over the Valley of the Kings and Hatschepsud temple for reasonable 350 LE (approx. 40 Euro).

However Luxor is a place full of contrasts. The locals try to surround their beautiful sights with as much noise as possible. Not only the muezzins warble the entire day from oversized loud speakers but also local oriental music entertains the entire city. You cannot escape. Since the tourism declined, an endless number of Nile cruisers are just waiting deserted on the river side. And the little numbers of tourists who are still in Luxor are chased by the locals.

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Luckily we met the tour guide Tony from Dragoman Overlanders in our Rezeiky camp. The Overlanders are a group of 20 travelers and drive the route Cairo – Cape Town in their small lorry. Tony was kind enough to submit our passports and Sudan visa forms at the Sudan consulate in Assuan. This gave us extra time in Luxor and especially facilitated our visa application process enormously. It usually takes a minimum of seven days.

After four days Luxor we drove to Aswan to get the ferry ticket and our Sudan visa. On the way we visited the temple “Horus” which is the best preserved temple in Egypt. In Aswan we stayed at the Isis hotel directly at the Nile river. That was peaceful and quiet. The next morning we coincidently met our motor bike friends, Susi, Mark and Tom again at the Nile Valley Cooperation. We saw them the last time in Little Petra in Jordan. Small World! We were very happy to see them and had to share a lot of experiences and stories. In order to get the ferry ticket we needed a police statement from the traffic court first. That confirms that we did not cause any accident and followed all traffic rules (which rules?) in Egypt. However when we got back to the Nile Valley Cooperation Mr. Salah told us that the “Pontoon” (our car has to go on that to Sudan) is still in Wadi Haifa (Sudan) and we shall come back tomorrow because “Inshallah” he might find a solution for our problem. Of course when we got there the next morning there was “Inshallah” still no solution and we had to come back on Saturday one week later! At least we finally got the Sudan Visa on that day after waiting at the Sudan consulate for five hours.

Up until today there is only a ferry connection between Egypt and Sudan at a very high price (online or pre-bookings are not possible). Even though a connecting street is almost finished (only 10 km have been missing for a while!), the two countries cannot find an agreement. However a street connection would also mean that the ferry company would not make any money anymore!

In order not to waste our time in Aswan we spontaneously drove to Marsa Alam at the Red Sea for snorkeling and diving. We spent our time at the diving spot Beach Safari Camp (GPS coordinates N25 11.767 E34 49.009).  It was beautiful but windy and chilly. On Friday the 25th of November we drove back to Aswan and booked ourselves a very nice hotel room at the Philae Hotel (GPS coordinates N24 05.357 E32 53.668). The hotel is lovely, has a beautiful view and is very clean and neat. In the afternoon the hotel owner invited us to a barbeque at his property directly at the Nile river. It was great for us to see a different site from Egypt.

And the next morning on the 26th of November – same game! We went to the Nile Valley Cooperation and Mr. Salah told us immediately that this time the pantoon crashed on the way to Aswan and can only be repaired in three days because there are public holidays in Egypt (again!). However we shall come back tomorrow and “inshallah” he will find a solution. The overlander lorry including Tom, the driver, also got stuck in Aswan (their 20 travelers took a ferry one week earlier). It was possible for Tom to put a lot of pressure on the ferry company because they are doing this tour all the time and make a lot of business with them. And what a surprise, all of a sudden the next morning (on the 27th of November) there was a slight change in the situation. Mr. Salah all of a sudden told us (after he sent us back again for a few hours) that there is a third pontoon, that is smaller and can take our cars tomorrow. What a nightmare!

We will tell you more about the ferry ride in our next blog….”Inshallah”…

Our impressions about Egypt

After four weeks of driving through Egypt we are slowly feeling like being at home. Suddenly we do not measure the locals with European expectations anymore. We do not want to improve everything because we know how it works. No, we only want to flow with this huge mass of people, odours and noises. We are even able to continue sleeping next to the noisy “chanting” of the muezzins at 04.30 h in the morning. Additionally we are well aware that we always play at least the double of the price compared to the locals and we just tolerate it with a smile.

The 80 million Egyptians have to go through a hard time at the moment. Since the revolution the tourism (which is a main source of income for the economy) has dropped enormously. At the same time the cost of living went up a lot. In addition the political and the legal environment became very unclear and insecure. On one hand we are lucky that we do not need to share the beautiful country with a lot of other tourists, however on the other hand we realize that the people are desperately looking for visitors to sell their services – to be honest, most of them just got on our nerves.

Interesting is the development of the two major groups in Egypt. There are the Muslims on the one hand. Since September 11th they have been able in general to strengthen their power and since the revolution in particular. On the other hand there are the Christian Coptic’s. For them life is getting more and more difficult. We talked to a few of them and they are really scared of the future.  For most of them they don’t see any Future in Egypt.

We travelled through a country that used to live under a dictatorship for decades and is now going through a big change. No one knows what the future is going to be.

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful temples of Luxor (Karnak, etc.) and the Valley of the Kings
  • A hot air balloon flight  over Luxor’s sights
  • The very well preserved Horus temple
  • The challenging Sudan ferry booking and long waiting period
  • Snorkeling in Marsa Alam, Red Sea

Who wants to win a personal post card from Sudan?

Please write a funny comment under these blog.  The most hilarious answer will win and will get a personal post card (as funny as the email is) from us. We will inform the winner via email and we then just need the postal address.

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