Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Preparation in Cairo

My emotions went wild months before my imminent departure. At the airport I felt like a cold stone as the tears filled my parents eyes, excitement got the best of me. I was nervous but craved the sense of adventure and needed to be strong for the trip to come.

As I arrived in Cairo I was very pleased to see Steve and most all of my bike box which was collected by the taximan and flung onto the top of his car and fastened by string to hold with the juts and turns of Cairo's chaotic traffic!

The trick is to walk in parallel lines together through the streets of bustling traffic, you might even be lucky enough to get a gentleman offer you a helping hand. The most classic line from any man is "I am not a tour guide I do not want your money" and suddenly from advising us directions we were offered tea in their shop full of gifts and souvenirs. I was very blunt and explained we were not interested. When he finally realised we had no money to spend his charm and facial expressions turned sour. "Ok get out" but where was our tea?!!!

The song of prayer 5 times a day talloid across the city is an experience to remember. I saw people filling the streets preparing their matts kneeling down to pray. This happens in many areas all over the city so the voice of prayer echos.

The pyramids of Giza were stunning. We managed to walk to the perfect panaramic spot out into the desert, the experience was heightened when we arrived back "on site" and the tourist police explained we must not take that route unless we had a tour guide. Another translation would be; unless we paid 20 Egyptian pound to ride a camel. We are saving this escapade for later on in the journey.

Making your way around Islamic Cairo is very interesting, contrasting. We were walking amoungst the busy streets filled vehicles and constant honks racing for the next space. The cars all speed when trying to communicate with my eyes all I can see is the driver staring back at me. It is not very reassuring as you hope they would look at the road so they do not run you over. We weaved left into the streets of settlements and you find the noise change into shouting (often mistaken for argueing). These narrow allys struggle to fit all people and carts of fabric but somehow with a lot of patience and squeezing we make it to the end of the street.

So it is true, the sun in Africa seems twice the size and has an elegant descent into the dusty square pieces of the city. We went to the new Al Azhar Park which gives you the opportunity to walk through an articulately landscaped garden to the most beautiful view point over all of Cairo.
The bikes have been checked and tampered with, packed and ready to go. We are commencing our journey out of Cairo and following the longest river in the world, the Nile. Apparently there are police that follow you the whole route to Aswan. We can have some fun trying to loose them but I don't know whether this will lead to peace and quiet. These settlements have some of the finest soils to grow food in Africa so I am expecting dense population. I am very lucky as my first 2000km is flat land (to put it in UK perspective Cornwall to Scotland is 1400km). This will be a great start to the journey.

I leave you with my thought of the day. Here is a quote from one of our recent emails.

"The pair of you are about to set off into the most frustrating, dangerous, incomprehensible continent on earth. It is also the most life-affirming, the most human, and arguably the most beautiful. You lucky, lucky gits."

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