Leaving Libya took about as long as entering Libya (5 minutes). There was also roughly the same amount of hassle (none). Egypt on the other hand was about a 3 hour series of visits to small hidden offices to squabble over papers and money. If we had tracked our back and forth runs between buildings, cars, guards, etc. it would have looked like that horrible one panel cartoon, “Family Circus.” The experience was about as hilarious as that cartoon as well (not at all).
Egypt is a big fan of bureaucracy. As such, a carnet is required for the country and getting that stamped and the car inspected takes time and visits to roughly 20 different individuals. Along this comes Egyptian plates for each vehicle, Egyptian driver’s licenses for each driver, Egyptian insurance, etc, etc. In Virginia we were able to get the plates “RGT SHOE” and “LFT SHOE” for the cars. In Egypt though, we have the boring Egyptian plates. So, for the duration that we have those plates, we no longer will refer to the cars as “Right Shoe” or “Left Shoe” but as “Arba’a Sifar Thamanya Khamsa Thamanya” and “Arba’a Sifar Thamanya Khamsa Ithnan” or “Thamanya” and “Ithnan” for short.
As we mentioned in the Libya post, NOTHING in that country was open before about 930 or 10pm. Egypt, however, has more a tourist focused economy and with that there were no issues procuring food at any hour of the day. Granted, some shops were closed for Ramadan so families could be together, but during the day the cities didn’t look like they were hit with some sort of zombie apocalypse, like Libya. On our drive from the border to Cairo we noticed many people in the middle of the highway blocking traffic and waving their arms around trying to get us to pull over. Uncertain of what this wildly unsafe traffic hazard was, we continued on. Upon further observation, these people were trying to hand us dates, water, tea, and other items so that we could break our fast. This was a common theme seen across Egypt and was the third most common traffic hazard we would encounter behind pile of burning trash and slow donkey cart.
On this first night in Egypt, we ended up not breaking our fast with dates, but with Pizza Hut. I could not tell you the last time I ate anything from Pizza Hut prior to August 6, 2012. It definitely has been over a year or two, but upon seeing the combined KFC/Pizza Hut (these are popular in Egypt), we decided to treat ourselves to (what we thought would be) some of the last “western” food we would have for about 50 days or so.
Arriving late into Cairo didn’t give us much opportunity to explore and we settled into a campsite located in Giza. The next morning our mission was to make a feeble attempt to obtain visas for Sudan at the Sudanese embassy, or at the very least figure out what was required to do so…with the backup plan being to procure them as transit visas in Aswan. As expected, the embassy in Sudan flat our rejected us and told us to go back to DC and get the visa there.
We moved to a hostel that was more centrally located so that we could :
-have more fun
-figure out when Mallory would be joining the team
-get our plan for obtaining Sudanese visas
On the “have more fun” side of things we were able to visit the Egyptian Museum (which was right across the street from the hostel) and unlike prior visits there was virtually no one there. With tourism down this year and it being Ramadan the museum was a ghost town. Some may appreciate this fact : Aside from us, there were THREE people in the Tutankhamen treasures room. THREE. Also a surprise for us was the number of people in Tahrir Square – also about three. We realized that the revolution happened a year ago, but from everything we had read, we expected there to be more activity there. We were told though that with Ramadan, people sort of calm down…but that on August 24th there would probably be large demonstrations there as this is the one year anniversary of the uprising.
Mallory informed us that she would be flying into Cairo to join the team the night of August 9th. This meant that we could effectively leave Cairo on the 10th and start heading down to Aswan in the hoping of getting our visas and hopping on the Monday ferry to Halfa, Sudan.
Stay tuned for the 2nd (and far more interesting) post on Egypt!