Cairo – noisy, dirty, unappealing

A sandstorm at Wadi Rum shoot down my plans to make a side-trip to South Jordan desert. Hence I didn’t hesitate to continue my travel to Akaba to make it to Egypt finally. While riding by bus down to Akaba, I pictured both entry scenarios of how to leave Jordan and make it to Sinai. The first possibility is travelling on the landway via Israelian Eilat. Since I am having several Arabian visas and stamps in my passport, I decided to take the much more expensive express ferry from southern Akaba to Nuweiba. Once you’re having e.g. a Syrian visa in your passport and want to cross into Israel, paranoid Israelis will surely check you twice, if even not triply or a fourth, fifth, sixth time… Of course all times you’re asked about personal data, you’re also urged to unpack and pack your baggage again.

Being not quite attired in that way of crossing into Egypt, I’ve chosen to buy a ticket for the ferry transfer to Nuweiba. Also Jordans can be quite bureaucratic. Being under full baggage load I had to report to 7 different offices (departure tax, ticket, changing money as they want only US$, stamping passport, validating ticket, … … …). Fortunately the ferry was on time and started at about 13:00 o’clock. When entering the passenger deck I heard a grumpy Swabian command “Don’t let that scum sit near the window!” Prussianly carpetting them for their digusting and sordid behaviour I went on to the front seats. Those were typical Neckermann all-inclusive tourists, who think they bought the whole ship when paying their 3 Euro for their package holiday. Unfortunately such people are representing Germany as well…
Passports are collected by the immigration officer if you don’t have a visa for Egypt yet. In Nuweiba there’s a chance to buy a postage stamp-like visa which has to be paid in Egyptian pound only; then you can report back to the immigration office. After my passport finally being stamped I wanted to head on to possibly make it to Cairo on the very same day. Nuweiba is an open harbour, when leaving the immigration office you can in fact leave the harbour at any place. There’s even no fence etc. Being an honest guy though I went to the custom-like looking hall. You don’t get a stamp or document there, though one possibly could get checked.

Lesson 1: Egypt = zero perspicacity & zero respect for others’ property
Earlier that customs guy must have worked in a stone pit. In any case he bashed all baggage to the ground after it went through the x-ray. That’s poison for glass-made water pipe bottles and of course my decently ornamented Nargile from Damascus couldn’t resist that attack as well. To boot he refused my protest with the words “Here in Egypt you can buy a new one everywhere!” He met the wrong one… With an ice cold and serious gaze I made clear that I won’t go without a compensation of the damage he caused. After insisting on that claim for more than 15 minutes he was softened up and he brought me a replacement. Nuweiba isn’t the Mecca of water pipes, of course that bottle was an unhandsome quickly churned out piece of glass. Then they booted me out… However, I wanted to catch the bus to Cairo and was fine with leaving customs behind me. Why is that a lection? When being in Arabia you won’t be faced with such a trait, but in Egypt it will escort your travel…

Lesson 2: Respect, what is that?
Soul-destroying is an Egyptian habit to loudly listen to their favourite songs on the mobile phone speaker… On the ferry as well as when being on a bus ride, you’ll meet plenty of people fancying to disturb other people. They even continue after you told them off. Once you solved that problem the next is already in sight: excessive smoking doesn’t matter where you are. From ferries and trains to busses and public places. You’ll always meet lots of people polluting the air you’re breathing. Without showing any sign of respect or sanity, the smoker minority lighted up cigarette after cigarette, even in presence of children… Again I had to intervene as I didn’t fancy to leave the bus like smoked salmon.
Also hotels won’t respect you much. Let me give an example: at dead of night (maybe 2:00a.m.) staff starts a loud conversation as if it would have been 2:00p.m. That’s an individual case? Far wrong… I slept in four different hotels and experienced four sleepless nights caused by staff. Everytime and everywhere people were avoidably noisy, even several times a night. But as soon it has been about money they were greedily hunt you like a devil does the souls. Best to be paid in advance and in full amount… Why is that a lection? That behaviour/characteristic isn’t ephemeral as well.

Lesson 3: don’t trust nobody on the street
When you meet people in Jordan or Syria their questions are seriously meant. They really care about where you are coming from, if you’re feeling good, if you like their country. You can take down your shield, there’s no hassle on the streets, you can take your swim in Arabian day life and culture. That is different in Egypt. Any communication is misused to huckster something, doesn’t matter if “real ancient papyrus” or “very old coins”. Precaution is recommended anyway as the “salesman” will get a commission, which is just an additional surcharge to the regular price. That reminded me of West Africa…

Lesson 4: noisy and airless
Of course Egypt isn’t responsible for Chamsin, a sandstorm that regularly beleaguers Cairo and colours the daylight into deep yellow. Air pollution is man-made though. Spending only a short time outside in the exhalations of about 11-12 million cars (preferably unfiltered Diesel engines) will make your eyes tear and lungs burn. First it’s funny, but in fact it’s scary when you only can cross streets while scrambling over engine hoods.

Lesson 5: little atmosphere
Egypt can look back on a thousands of years lasting civilization and its unique history. But why is much-lauded Egyptian museum often looking like a super market? Lots of unkindly placed exhibits are looking like the WalMart next door. Why wasn’t there a feeling of amazement when seeing the Pyramids? Cairo is a moloch; there’s no limit for its hectic pace except Sahara desert. In the city’s ditches horses and other animals are decaying.

Lesson 6: authorities
Only after paying a “special entrance fee” to some Tourist Police officers I was allowed to enter the area surrounding the Pyramids. English? Negative… In a country so clearly focussed on tourism, policemen rarely speak English, they are more a threat than a help. UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon was in town. Maybe government wanted to paint a different picture or keep the people away from protesting? When somebody robbed a part of my photo equipment, nobody of those official supernumeraries helped me. After a 6 hours lasting odyssey of reporting to almost every authority Cairo has on offer, there was no chance anymore to catch the thief. Risking his rice pudding to become cold thanks to a tourist? No way…

Egypt fits the characteristical gap between hospital/honest Arabia and West Africa, which is wrecked by materialism. This is surely a flat verdict, there are surely exceptions, but I didn’t meet them, in no way. Unfortunately.

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