View from my hotel room- no more sand floors! Aswan, Egypt.
May 20, 2007. Welcome to Egypt- and the prison with gold bars! By the time the ferry reached the Egytian town of Aswan, I was ready to disembark. I hadn't had a shower in 3 days and was positively sick and tired of eating ful (smashed brown beans). I had eaten ful at least twice a day for the past week, often 3 times per day. The ful served on the ferry was terrible- and I was hungry when I ate it.
The ferry arrived earlier than scheduled, which turned out to be a bad thing as the immigration people weren't yet on the job. Getting off the ship took some 4 hours. The heat in the cramped spaces was terrible. Everyone was sweating and miserable. Children who were crying at one point were eventually reduced to loud moans, their strength failing in the heat. I put in my beloved earplugs to drown out the screams and moaning. Many men smoked and this only added to the overall feeling of claustrophobia. It amazed me that no one opened a hatch or porthole. We just sat in the sun baking. Every 20-30 minutes 8 or 10 people would be let off the ship. They would push in a frenzied manor towards the only open hatch to effect their escape. Bags were thrown through the air and people almost crushed as men and women fought towards the exit. After each group left, the police would fight to close the hatch, thus cutting off the flow of hot- though fresh- air. I was amazed that the police kept the lid on the situation- which was akin to a full-fledged prison riot. It was a miserable 4 hours. I kept my mind focused like a lazer beam on the thought of: a plush hotel, a cold shower, a hot meal of ANYTHING other than brown beans- and many cold beverages of my choice. I have come to think of times like these as "walking the coals." Whether minutes, hours, days or even weeks, virtually anything can be dealt with and eventually overcome.
After getting off the ship I tried to start the customs paperwork for the bike. I hoped to get the bike out of customs the next day and start riding north ASAP. This is what happened:
May 17: I attempted to get the "paperwork ball" rolling. I was told Mr Hameem was not in the office and was was told to come back at 1000 the next day. I took a taxi to town (10 miles).
May 18: I took a taxi from Aswan to the customs office. I arrived at 0945, helmet in hand, to clear customs. The electricity was out in the building. I was told to wait 10 minutes, this turned into 2 hours. I took tea with some customs agents. After hours of waiting, an agent approached me and told me the police station was closed as it was Friday. I knew many offices were closed in Sudan on Friday, now I knew about Egypt too. Sunday isn't a day of rest here, this is the land of Islam. I was told to return the next day at 1000. I took another taxi back to town.
May 19: I took another taxi to customs, helmet in hand. I finally met Mr Hameem. He was a very nice fellow. He stamped my carnet and filled out other paperwork. He then sent me to the traffic police in Aswan. He told me I would not get the bike today as there was much paperwork to do. I took another taxi to the traffic police. A man in an office overflowing with paperwork filled out some forms for me. He told me I needed to buy insurance for the bike and return to his office- which was just closing for the day. I went to the insurance office, they were closed. I took a taxi back to my hotel.
May 20: I departed my hotel, helmet in hand, with a prearranged taxi at 0800. We went to the insurance office. They were closed and didn't open until 0930. We went to the traffic police office in Aswan to get an engineer to inspect the bike and take down the chassis and motor numbers. Mr Hameem told me I would get the bike today. He told me to take the engineer's information back into Aswan for approval of the traffic police. The traffic police took all the paperwork and told me they needed copies of my passport and carnet. "No problem" I thought, I'll get them done near the insurance office. I got the copies made and then spent an hour in line at the insurance office before people started shouting and waving fists angrily in the air. Someone was kind enough to explain that the office had just closed. "Come back tomorrow at 0800" someone said. "But I was here early today and was told to come back at 0930" I said. "What can I do?" the man replied with a smile. And so I returned to the hotel once again, via taxi. TIA my friends and family, TIA. I'll have the bike tomorrow, inshallah!...
May 21: I checked out of my room and left my gear piled in the hotel lobby. I took a taxi to the insurance office and was surprised to find it open- and I was the only one there! I had my insurance in 15 minutes at a cost of $3usd- all of that for $3 bucks??!! I then went to the police station and was told I was missing an original document. I had a COPY of the document, but they really needed the original. This meant returning to customs at the high damn before returning to the police station for final approval. This took 2 hours. Around noon I finally picked up the bike and headed back to Aswan to load my gear. After five days, I was free to leave. At last, it was time to head north!
Even from a distance, the Great Pyramid looms large. Giza, Egypt.
I had chai with these friendly police officers. The man who took this picture had never held a camera before. Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.