After a long day in Jordan followed by another Red Sea cruise, we arrived in Dahab at the bus station about 1 minute before the bus was about to depart – our trip from the harbour to the bus station was like something from a James Bond movie cutting through traffic like I’ve never seen before and Achmat parking behind the bus so that the bus can’t leave while we grabbed all our luggage and slammed it into the bus just before they closed the luggage compartments, but as Achmat promised, he wouldn’t let us down. Another 8 hours on that cramped bus listening to Arabic Prayer music and being woken up multiple times by heavily armed military forces wanting to inspect the bus, we finally made it back to Cairo.
It was heaven getting into a shower after being in transit for almost three days between Dahab, Jordan and Cairo. Our time in Egypt was running out and we still wanted to see The Museum. We were fairly low on Egyptian Pounds so we decided to cut the middelman and find the museum ourself, on foot while asking people directions on the way there (occasionally finding somebody who understands and speaks a little bit of English). As we were getting close (after spending a considerable amount of time on foot), some dude pulled us out of the way and told us that there was unrest on The Square and that he’ll take us to safety. We followed him and he took us to his shop. He offered to give us one free papyrus roll in exchange for advertising his shop in Cape Town. He continued to close the shop, added some more papyrus in the roll and sealed it, then indirectly forcing us to pay for everything before we were allowed to leave. He wanted something ridiculous, like 500 Euros. After we told him that we only have 120 Egyptian Pounds (which was just enough for the museum) and a 100 South African Rands , he took our money, said he’s getting married the next day and appreciates us doing business with him as every bit helps (I’ve included a photo of him and his fiancé looking all smuck after they cleaned us out). We eventually made it to the museum, but couldn’t draw cash there as the ATM was out of cash. We returned to the hotel just before dark, feeling sorry for ourselves that we couldn’t get into the museum and decided to eat-in that night, each having a pizza before heading for bed.
The next day, we were picked up fairly early since we had a long day ahead traveling from Cairo to Alexandria and back. We spotted Shakira’s castle once again, then continued driving through a piece of land called no-man’s land. No-man’s land is basically like a free-for-all, if you can afford security there, you can go claim yourself a piece of land. At night, the area is apparently a warzone, people trying to claim other people’s land, so we had to be back from Alexandria before dark in order to not be in the middle of a warzone. Halfway to Alexandria, it started raining, just a light drizzle. All of a sudden all the cars stopped – we were standing still for over an hour, apparently the road crumpled up due to the light drizzle and nobody could move.
The first excavation site we arrived at, we had to hand in our cameras before we were allowed inside. There were three levels under ground, the first level just having empty holes where mummies used to be kept, the second level we were walking the plank - the second level was halfway under water, so they made a path with elevated planks and we had to walk carefully -misstep and you’re in the water. The third level under ground was not accessible at all, it was completely flooded. Outside the tomb-site, we were allowed to take photos of the broken coffins, most of them having a bit of a greek background.
We got picked up and taken to a secondary site where we spent a few hours looking at misfit ruins and pillars including Pompey’s Pillar. Most of the statues were either without heads or noses, most pillars were broken. Each of them had a story behind it …
Somewhat later we got picked up and taken to a restaurant where we had vegetables for the first time in two weeks, even though it was tinned vegetables, I didn’t mind – at this stage I was starved for proper food!
A quick stop at the Alexandria Library and we were on the road back to Cairo. We didn’t actually go into the library, there simply was not enough time to do so - that early morning drizzle that crumpled the road delaying our journey by an hour was to blame for this. The building has some interesting features, one of them being that it uses natural light for most of the day which reduces the running cost significantly. It also houses about 8 million books. The inside apparantly is about as big as a shopping mall with a planetarium, four museums and an enourmous amount of study space.
The next day was our last day in Egypt, we woke up early crammed down a quick breakfast and made our way to the Egyptian Museum. We had exactly 4 hours to get through the whole museum before we had to go back to not mis our lift (luckily we timed our journey from the hotel to the museum two days before that, so we knew exactly how long it took to get to and from the museum). After four hours on our feet pacing through the museum, we managed to lay eyes on most of the exhibitions, but after seeing the 200th+ mummy, reading all the details about each and every pharaoh’s life sort of became less interesting. We managed to make it back just in time for our lift which dropped us at a gigantic shopping mall. In the three hours we spent there, we only managed to cover the first three levels of the shopping mall, there was still four more levels to explore. We got picked up from the shopping mall and taken to the airport where we waited over three hours due to a delay.
We arrived in Jo’burg the next morning, two hours late!! The connecting flight was already getting ready to depart. We grabbed our luggage from the top compartment the moment the plane stopped and ran to the front, pushed through first-class and security while shouting we’re going to miss our connecting flight. We managed to get our luggage from the conveyer belt fairly quickly, stashed it onto a trolley and sprinted from international arrivals to domestic departures where we pushed to the front of the line interrupting a lady who was busy checking in and checked ourselves in. The lady at the counter said we’re too late to check in our luggage, so we took our trolley, sprinted to security gates. There we jumped over the railings while people passed on our luggage over the railings for us and making way for us. Security x-rayed the big luggage and let us through without any further delays. We grabbed our luggage and ran to the departure gate, as we got to the plane, they were just getting ready to close the door and there we stood with all our luggage. Security took our luggage and stashed it in a special compartment for big items while we got ourselves seated dripping with sweat.
In 15 minutes, we managed to get of an international flight, get our luggage, check in, pass security and board a domestic connecting flight, I think that deserves a Guinness record!! The next couple of weeks was a blur trying to recover, but it was good to back in Cape Town!