We are leaving Egypt: the land of a million Police Check Points. The hope of the Arab Spring is all but forgotten. General Sisi’s hold over the country seems to be persevering since the removal by the military of the Muslim Brotherhood from power. “This country needs strong leadership to counter the natural state of corruption”, is the opinion expressed to us by more than one national we have spoken to. Lesser evils.
Ahmed from Cairo has been cycling with us for the last week, as he has done at the invitation of TDA for 6 years now. He has recently moved to Germany for work, but even now maintains the position that the rest of the world would be better off with security checks in every town and public area. He talks candidly about this after a “warm up” session. Catch our conversation here:
Ahmed is intelligent and content like most of the people we have encountered in Egypt (although in many cases with more than a hint of resignation). Clearly we have different outlooks on the outward appearances of a “civilized” society, but listening to his conviction it is also obvious that we need to have understanding. South of our Canadian border there are calls to arm school teachers. Ahmed might agree, but only on the basis of what he knows from his upbringing here. He was raised in a country which has gone far beyond those measures.
Tomorrow we cross our 1st border into Sudan. Social media sights have been shut down in that country due to political unrest. We just learned at our rider meeting that a planned rest day in Dongola has been cancelled to give us time to circumnavigate the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. TDA has deemed that city too dangerous at the present time.
Safety on Tour
The legal system in Sudan is based on Islamic sharia law. Stoning and crucifixion (!) remain judicial punishments in Sudan. Flogging is legal. Sudan’s public order law allows police officers to publicly whip women who are accused of public indecency.
Sudan is currently ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. The country’s economy has deteriorated over the years, with soaring inflation of 70 percent and regular bread and fuel shortages hitting several cities. In the last months, with his political allies defecting, economic turmoil worsening and street protests erupting across the country almost every day, President al-Bashir is seeing his power slowly ebb away.
TDA Cycling sent us a series of bulletins in the weeks prior to our arrival in Cairo. The “racier” ones came after they had our payment (or so it seemed). Here is an excerpt from the bulletin entitled “Safety”:
“Prior to the running of each tour, we conduct an internal review of the risks involved. This review often results in logistical changes in advance of the tour or even during the tour when the situation requires it. These changes are often minor but sometimes major changes are needed. Here are two examples of major changes that have occured on previous editions of this tour:
- Deciding before the tour began not to cycle in Ethiopia on the 2017 edition of the tour due to civil unrest and protests
- Deciding while the tour was in progress not to cycle through Kenya on the 2008 edition of the tour due to post-election violence”
The reality is there are risks in any and all countries, any outdoor activity, and any physical pursuit. We do our utmost to mitigate risk and create a safe environment for all clients, but risks do exist. Most of the risks are not easy to categorize, and cannot be predicted far in advance, but the items below are some of the most likely risk areas that you should be aware of:
Conservative clothing (especially for women) in Muslim Egypt and Sudan. Women should also not ride alone in these countries.
Beware of rock throwing children and young adults in Ethiopia.
Beware of bandits along the East Africa Highway in northern Kenya.
Beware of elephants and lions along the Elephant Highway in Botswana.
We have had a wonderful day touring Ramses II’s monuments dedicated to his queen Nefertari: tombs actually disassembled and rebuilt further up the banks of Lake Nasser which was created by the construction of the Aswan dam in the early 1960’s. The temples would otherwise been lost.
It was a comfort to see that an in international effort of archaeologists and engineers could work with the Egyptian government and Unesco for this cause – safe keepers of antiquity and the chance for others to experience what we have in Egypt.
Now our journey’s 1st wrinkle – nothing to worry about, but a possibility that we will not be blogging any time soon.
Thanks for reading. To be continued . . .