After travelling almost the entire length of Africa on buses Guilherme and I were both looking forward to a change of conveyance for our final day of travel. So we were disappointed when we turned up at the station an hour early (after being told the previous day at the ticket office that we could only by tickets the day of travel, and to arrive an hour early) to find that there was no availability and that we should have booked in advance. Classic Egypt.
Next stop, the tourist office where they advised us to try the local bus companies. Ticket bought, then a forced refund as the driver decided he couldn’t/didn’t want to take non-Egyptians. Battling touts trying to sell us train tickets supposedly for the next train to Cairo, and others trying to force us onto empty buses that were apparently just about to depart (two hours later the same busses were still imminently departing), we worked our way back to our hotel, finally remembering to collect the change that was never forthcoming. Walking back toward the buses we encountered plenty more hassle, including lots of false information in an attempt to deflect us from reaching the only bus company with any amount of transparency. Thankfully we were by now well versed in the art of Egyptian con artists and ignored all the supposedly helpful advice. Generally, if you listen to an Egyptians recommendations, then do the opposite, you won’t go far wrong. Trust no one here!
Finally on our way, we spent a few hours winding through the green fields, palm trees and dirty villages of the Nile valley, watching the rats playing in the ubiquitous heaps of roadside rubbish each time we stopped. Once out of civilisation and onto the straight, fast, desert road north it was a few short hours of dunes and rocky crags in the setting sun before we arrived in a dark and traffic choked Cairo, ecstatic to have finally made it after so long on the road. No more waking up at 4.00am to board a cramped and dirty bus, squashed in for 12hrs, 24hrs, days. No more packing and unpacking. No more hassle, arguing, fighting for basic goods and services. In a few short days we would be flying out, our African odyssey at an end. But first there were some loose ends to tie up. A few pyramids a big stone statue and a final city to explore.
First, the city. After so long on the road, and after seeing and doing so much we weren’t going to go hard, but Guilherme wanted to get some souvenirs as Christmas presents, so we headed over to Islamic Cairo to check out the bazaar, Khan al-Khalili. After a cursory look around the standard Egyptian tourist tat and household goods for sale, I left Guilherme to his shopping and headed deeper into the Islamic area, past the Al-Azhar Mosque to the Bab Zuweila. Built in 1095AD, this is the only surviving gate of medieval Cairo. Although interesting in itself, the main reason to visit is to climb one of the minarets on top, later additions from a time when the gate was encompassed by a neighbouring mosque, for a 360 degree view of the city. A forest of minarets above the rubbish strewn rooftops showing through the thick city smog.
A chill day followed in which I had a mammoth lie in, lunched, chilled and had a quick wander round the Egyptian Museum. There is very little information about any of the thousands of exhibits and without a guide this place felt more like an Egyptian second hand shop, or warehouse for unwanted household items, than a museum.
With the advent of my last morning in Africa I still hadn’t got a proper look at that big statue, or those pyramids. So I took a circuitous route to the airport in the morning and stopped off to see the last standing wonder of the ancient world, the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. A fittingly spectacular end to what was a spectacular journey, the adventure of a lifetime, and one I’ll never forget. Goodbye Africa, and thank you!
Time on public transport: 8hrs
Distance travelled: approx. 658km
Countries visited: 1
Time on public transport: 16days20hrs15mins
Distance travelled: approx. 18,631km
Countries visited: 13