Pharoah’s Delight

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The world’s largest architectural museum is under construction in Cairo.  The superstructure looks big enough to house the pyramids themselves.  It is 6 years behind schedule.  In the meantime,  the day we visited the Tutankhamen exhibition at the current Egyptian Museum painters were teetering on an iffy scaffold within toppling distance of the Boy Pharoah’s glass encased iconic gold mask – an unbelievable affront to an artifact which has travelled the world and been admired by millions. We left dirty, fascinating, wonderful and chaotic Cairo 2 days ago. We were invited to the homes of our taxi drivers for tea and helped across 8 lanes of traffic by a good samaritan who served as a human shield for us. The government is supplying our tour with a police escort all the way to the Sudanese border to guard against the bad press that would result from any incident. The whole country seems to be on board in an effort to win back  the tourist dollars lost to the Arab Spring.

30 cyclists from all over the world in our group were treated to special access cycling through the Pyramid complex early on the morning of our departure.   What a thrill to be there in the absence of the hoards. Yours truly were interviewed for Egyptian television so watch for that!

Over the next 4 months we will cycle along the Nile past ancient temples, through the Sahara in Sudan, up and down the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, over the equator in Kenya, past Mount Kilimangero in Tanzania, on to one of Africa’s Great Lakes in Malawi and “Mosi-ao-Tunya” (The Smoke That Thunders) which is the native description of Victoria Falls, along the edges of the Kalahari and Namib deserts before finishing our journey in Cape Town, South Africa.

The tour  is divided into sections which begin and end where there are airports.  TDA Cycling has labelled the 2365 km 1st leg of our journey Pharoah’s Delight.

pharaoh's delight

On our last day in the city we braced ourselves against a sandstorm in Tahrir Square that made it easy to understand how so many monuments and artifacts have been lost to the expanding desert.  Fortunately the weather has been favorable since then – single digits early morning rising to mid teens by afternoon.  It has been a “soft start”  compared with what lies ahead: good tarmac, shoulders, helping winds and some of the only hotels we’ll enjoy. Our room last night came equipped with a prayer mat. We knew exactly what to do with it because the Red Sea is the divide between Africa and Asia and on the opposite bank to the south lies Mecca – the target when rolling it out.  The 5 times daily calls to prayer let us know when to act. We’ll need to work on other local customs  – Lenore has been in the lead (ahead of Gerald) on her bicycle more often than not and that is most certainly not in compliance with how things are (still) done here.

We headed out of Cairo to the Red Sea and are now following the coastal highway to Safaga. The right turn at the sea was indicative one of the things we love about cycling: the gradual unveiling of geography at a speed and with exposure to terrain and the elements that allow it to be appreciated. The Red Sea rift which underlies this inlet of the Indian Ocean is part of the Great Rift Valley, a continuous geographic trench that runs from Lebanon to Mozambique. It will account for some spectacular scenery as this journey unfolds southward.

We will be climbing inland next to meet the Nile River at Qena and travel on to Luxor where we will have our 1st day of rest to take in the sites. We will report from the Valley of the Kings.

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Magical moment
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On to the Red Sea
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Lunch in the desert.
Early Morning start.
Early morning start.
stage 2
Our mission for the day

Greetings (مرحبا) From Cairo

 

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After 9 months of preparations, we have arrived at the starting line.`New bikes, updated gear (none the 4 tents we already had met the requirements), visas (2 trips to Ottawa to meet the all important gatekeepers of The Sudan and Ethiopia), vaccinations, insurance, exercise, packing, more vaccinations, repacking, 2nd guessing everything and on and on have come to an end.  This adventure is about to get real, inshAllah.

We have 3 days to acclimatize here in Cairo.  We gained entrance to our modern hotel in the Giza district after our airport transfer van was cleared by police sniffer dogs and our  luggage and persons passed through airport style scanners.  A taxi driver today explained that the AK-47’s seen everywhere here are the outcome of the “accident” in 2001 – the one with the planes – and that all of this is to make tourists feel more secure. They do anything but, instead serving as a constant reminder of the dangers lurking here according to Canada’s own travel advisory website and just about everyone else.

1st order of business in this city was to visit the Pyramids of Giza.  My (Gerry’s) father had photographed them many years ago and I recall showing the 2 1/2 inch slides  with an old style projector as a grade 8 geography project (every 2nd one inverted because they had to be inserted one at a time, upside down and backwards and I was a nervous one). I had been so impressed with these images of antiquity that when Miss Kajaks asked for background on the monuments on the screen I had little to add as it seemed to me that they spoke for themselves!

Having now visited the pyramid complex on our own – the Great Pyramid of Khufu together with those of his son and grandson,  kept safe under the watchful gaze of the mighty Sphinx – and reflecting that these wondrous feats of architecture were imagined and realized while the rest of the world was hunting wild beasts and sheltering in caves, I would say that I am  as much in awe as my earlier self.

The 1st official orientation meeting for tour participants was this morning at 9:00 AM.  We awoke at the stroke of 10:00  and were the butts of the 1st communal jokes as we sauntered in late.  A repeat performance on a riding day would mean that we would miss the luggage truck departure deadline and would each have to carry our 70 pounds or so of camping and daily kit on our bikes!

Time to get serious. Sleep.  Thanks for following.  Next news from the road.

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السلام عليكم – “السلام عليكم” (Peace be upon you).

 

 

 

 

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This is the Big One!

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On January 17th Lenore and Gerry will set off past the Great Pyramid of Giza in Cairo on the most ambitious journey of their lives.  Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.  The continent from top to bottom. 12,000 kilometres.  On bicycles. Camping.

We can’t predict to what degree time, energy and technology will impact what emerges in this blog.  We can definitely commit to keeping it interesting.

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