CAIRO, EGYPT (28 March 2018) — The flight delay due to severe dust storms meant we arrived into the city quite late at night. A thin layer of fine sand covered everything, including parked cars along the streets, and it seemed odd because the city appears so detached from the desert on its outskirts. It was as if the sand storm was the desert’s attempt to reclaim terrain from the urban civilization that had grown up into a sprawling metropolis.
Cairo is the largest city in the Middle East or North Africa. But it was after midnight and everything was quiet. The Egyptian presidential elections had finished earlier in the day, and there were no surprises — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi won a second term as expected. The streets were calm as we drove towards my small hotel in the downtown area, not far from the Tahir square where the “revolution” sparked a regime change back in 2011. I am not sure how most Egyptians feel about the results, but the lack of enthusiasm for the elections might be an indicator that ordinary people are tired of politics period. In any case, my late arrival meant I would have to wait until tomorrow to even get a sense of the city at all.
I am staying at Osiris Hotel, a small locally-run hotel in downtown Cairo that I chose based on positive Trip Advisor reviews. I wanted a small guesthouse-like hotel that was comfortable, clean and centrally located, and the Osiris seemed perfect. Though we had a little trouble locating the address in the chaos of Cairo — it is located on the top floors of an anonymous looking office building — once we found the entrance I had a warm greeting and plenty of assistance getting settled in. My room had a small balcony that overlooked the city and despite the dust, I took a few minutes to just gaze across the mass of lights in search of the desert in the darkness beyond.
It was hard to get a sense of the town so late, and I had an early wake-up with plans to meet Nahla at 8 am, so I bypassed the temptation to check out the rooftop terrace and went to sleep just after midnight…
ABOUT THE EXPEDITION
JoMarie Fecci, of USnomads, sets off on an independent scouting trip across Egypt and Sudan in preparation for an up-coming Sahara expedition. Driving locally-sourced Toyotas and working with small local teams in each region, she will traverse a winding route that jumps off from key points along the Nile as far south as Khartoum, where the Blue and White Niles meet. During the journey she will visit a series of UNESCO world heritage sites focused on the ancient civilizations that occupied the region and meet with local communities. The primary goal of this mission is to assess terrain, security, driving conditions, logistical concerns and approximate timeframes for future travel.
WHERE WE ARE
The Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. With the Mediterranean sea on its northern border, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, and the Red Sea to the east and south, it occupies a geo-strategic location connecting Europe, Asia and Africa. It has land borders with Gaza and Israel to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Islam is the official religion and Arabic the official language. Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, with over 95 million inhabitants. Most of the population lives near the banks of the Nile River, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of the country’s territory, are sparsely inhabited. Considered a cradle of civilization, Egypt emerged as one of the world’s first nation states in the tenth millennium BC and iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy.