2007 Journey:
Africa, Russia, Mongolia and China

  • Finally Heading into Egypt


    For 17 hours the ferry chugs across Lake Nassar, the largest manmade lake in the world. At more than 300 miles long, the lake was created by damming the Nile in Egypt. I decide to splurge on a first-class ticket, which means I actually have a bunk in an air-conditioned room.

    "Someone has stolen both of my cell phones," says David, a temporary traveling companion driving his new Land Rover from South Africa to England.

    There was hope though, because the two men were seen leaving the room. At first it was thought they were accidentally lost, until it was discovered the phones were missing.

    African men in back of truckWith some effort, David’s border agent apprehends the two men, both of them deny knowing anything about the missing phones. A search through their belongings shows nothing.

    The agent then splits the two suspects apart and plays each off the other, claiming the other has confessed and accused the partner in the crime. They are given a choice, they could either hand the phones over now, or wait and be handed over to the Egyptian police, where they will hang you by your legs and peel off your skin. They suddenly remember who might have the phones, their wives.

    Such is the risk of travel, anywhere.

    "I didn’t want to stick around and press charges," says David. "I just wanted to scare them a little so maybe they won’t do it again."

    "I think you succeeded in the scaring part," I chuckle.

    As we approach the Aswan Dam, it’s impossible to not be impressed by the shear magnitude of the size. It is over 39 football fields long and a football field high. With the help of the Soviet Union, the dam began construction in 1960 and took 11 years to complete.

    Buried under the waters of the massive lake went the Nubian Culture, a point of contention yet today.

    "I’m a Nubian," says the ferry captain; all the captains are Nubians. This was his response when I greeted him in Arabic. The Nubians have retained their own language and resent the Egyptians for building the dam and burying their history under the depths of Lake Nassar.

    "You are welcome up here anytime," he says as he watches the radar that shows his ancestors’ land below.

    For three hours we sit in the harbor at Aswan waiting for immigration to check and double check all the passports of the passengers on the ferry.

    Walking through customs, they pull me aside after a screening of my backpack.

    "Do you have a knife in your bag?"

    "Yes. I have been carrying a souvenir knife for my brother." I pull it out; their eyes get big, and roll slightly as I hand it over.

    Much discussion goes on between the three men.

    "OK, it is illegal for you to have this knife," says one of the men. "So, put it away and don’t show anyone."

    "Good plan," I respond, and walk outside to a train platform.

    "Taxi?" yells a man in the walkway.

    "How much?"

    "Thirty Egyptian pounds."

    "Too much."

    "How much then?"

    "Twenty pounds."

    "Too much."

    I eye a train sitting across the way, and wonder out loud to myself if it is going to Aswan.

    Overhearing my conversation, the taxi man says, "The train is not going to Aswan."

    I yell across the tracks to a conductor standing on the platform, "Aswan?" He nods his head yes, as the taxi driver walks.

    Hopping over the tracks, I jump onto the train just as it pulls away. The conductor asks for the train fare; one pound, and says, "Welcome to Egypt."



    Fremont Tribune








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