Back from Egypt

15 years and 4 months ago, on a Tuesday
The 13th of May 2008, to be precise

To sum the whole week up in just three words: I didn’t like it (OK, four words 🙂 ).

But it wasn’t very bad, really. There were lots of small little things that ruined it for me, but not any major issue, fortunately. Just the next day after our trip to Luxor (ancient Thebes) we saw the news about a bus crash that killed 9 people on their way to Cairo. Not that our trip was event free, but it was a smooth ride compared to this.

Photo 1: Buses fanning out the entire road width, including the opposite lane.

For example, the resort was OK, but not exceptional. It was fairly clean, the room was big but the bathroom was quite small. Especially the shower booth was really small, but this was no longer a surprise after the first trip out of the resort… these people are incredibly filthy!

What was not OK about the resort was that it was literally filled with Russians, most of the families having at least one small kid, but many of them having 3 or 4! Especially during meal hours the situation was getting hairy: on top of the normal chatter noise of so many people there were the very frequent hysterical cries of small children, all rounded up by the waiters running in between the tables, stacking up huge piles of dirty dishes and eating utensils on platters the size of a big truck wheel.

The villages we crossed on our way to Luxor were very poor, with a depressing gray look. Most of the buildings are left unfinished to avoid some taxes, and this gives them an almost bombarded look. In front of most buildings there are stables with skinny cows or goats. The desert looks eerie, it’s almost like the surface of the moon except for the red color of the mountains and the sand.

Photo 2: Stables for animals in front of unfinished buildings.

But everywhere you looked, clusters of men sitting down at road crossings or building corners, smoking and chatting, or just sitting there. Being poor is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if you at least try to do something about it. But they seemed to be perfectly happy with the situation, and they were just sitting there, doing absolutely NOTHING!

Photo 3: La dolce vita, the Egyptian way.

The roads were surprisingly good (a lot better than Romanian ones, that’s for sure) and thank God for that, ’cause the way they drive is bad enough. They form convoys of dozens (even hundreds) of buses, with police or military escort, then they speed like hell — 120-140 kmph — leaving only 2-3 meters between vehicles. On top of that, they don’t use the headlights during night time, except for brief periods of time. A ride on a bus there feels really like extreme sports.

Photo 4: Military escort.

Photo 5: Their understanding of safety gap between vehicles: no gap! During nighttime and with headlights off, it gets really scary, especially at speeds over 120 kmph.

Fortunately, the temples of Luxor and Karnak were truly spectacular, so the effort of those long ours on a bus seat was not in vain. Karnak impressed me the most, I was amazed by the sheer scale of it and the fact that so much of it survived some 5.000 years. There are places where the original paint is still visible! For fuck’s sake, our contemporaries are not able to make something last for 10 years, never mind 1000!

Photo 6: The Hypostyle Hall inside the Karnak Temple Complex, begun during the reign of Ramses I

Photo 7: Original paint can still be seen in some places.

The so-called trip on the Nile was almost a bad joke. Packed in some funky looking boats that possessed a close resemblance to gypsy tents in our own country, we traveled for 10 minutes from one bank to the other.

Photo 8: A ‘trip’ on the Nile River.

On the same lines, the sea trip organized by our agency was a waste of time and money. The schedule was briefly mentioning a visit to the Paradise Island. Our imagination was filling the gaps with beautiful scenery, corals, exotic vegetation and fauna. Only once arrived there, and when we specifically asked, we were told the reason the island is called like that is because it hosts a bar/terrace called Paradise! And the ‘island’ was in fact a small piece of reddish land protruding from the deep blue Red Sea, and the terrace was in fact a shaky construction all covered with reed!

Photo 9: The ‘Paradise Island’.

So if you are perfectly happy with sun bathing and swimming and never leaving the resort, then you should be just fine and have a great time. Of course, you should still be able to ignore the Russians and their small kids, the planes constantly flying over the resort, the drinks that had only a vague resemblance to their western originals and sometimes even side effects, like getting your tongue a bright orange color for a while.

Photo 10: Every 10 minutes there was a plane on its way to and from Hurghada Airport.

Photo 11: The sodas served had funny side effects.

Oh, and despite the fact that everybody in the resort was an ‘all inclusive’ customer, we were still forced to wear these silly plastic bracelets that read ‘all inclusive’. But I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to scratch my sun irritated skin wit it, not for the world!

As a conclusion: I will think very very well before going to another Muslim country again, and especially in Africa!

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