CAIRO, EGYPT (3 April 2018) — As if the transition from the desert to the oasis towns had not been jarring enough, the approach to Cairo announced itself with traffic that began to bunch up before becoming full-blown jammed. Just after the main checkpoint en route to the urban population centers a truck had spilled a load of potatoes and the driver was attempting to recuperate some of them. Other cars were stopped and people were picking up potatoes, whether to help the driver or to help themselves to free produce we couldn’t tell. Still other trucks kept on driving right over the potatoes creating a kind of mashed potato coating on top of the asphalt that seemed like it could be dangerously slippery — so everyone was going very slowly.
Despite the fact that I had a flight to catch in just a few hours, I was not anxious about time. The desert had worked it’s magic and my spirit was on what I always call “Africa-time” — meaning I get there when I get there. And, besides, I had faith in Mr. Abdel’s Cairo driving skills. I would have been more worried if I was driving this segment myself!
Mr. Abdel had come to pick me up for the transit between Bahariya and Cairo a little after dawn. After saying goodbyes to Abdou, Ahmed and Arafat, I had spent my last night at a beautifully situated but empty hotel where I was the only guest. It was a bit bizarre, and ghosttown-esque, but the property was well cared for with flowers blooming in the garden and I had a last walk as the sun rose, just before Mr. Abdel arrived.
My time in the desert had been short but intense, and I was feeling very glad to have made a few new friends. Future plans and the situation in the region will determine when I can come back for a deeper journey further into the mysterious Western Desert, and maybe across the Great Sand Sea, but I know I will be back again. For now I am headed to the airport and on to Khartoum, but first we had to get through the crazy Cairo traffic…
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.