The Nile valley is home to about 95% of Egypt’s 74 million people with a population density of 1540 people per square kilometre. Apart from day one, we followed the Nile from Cairo to Aswan and it felt as though we met all of 70 million friendly people en route.
Every western male is assumed to be American with the name Johnny. I felt like a bit of a rock star riding along and hearing screams of ‘Johnny’ from the fields or the side of the road. They struggle with the letter ‘P’ so Pierre, instead of being called ‘Beer’, offered his name as ‘Ted’.
The roads were mostly in good condition and we were blessed with a tailwind so cycling was great. We cruised along at a decent rate sharing the road with Trucks, tractors, cars, bakkies, minibus taxis, tuktuks, motorcycles and donkeys. There don’t seem to be many rules on the roads but if there is one rule it’s a blast of the horn to let others know that you’re there.
We were often stopped at Police checkpoints, some where we were held up for many hours waiting for an escort and others where we were waved through just slowing down for the speed bumps. There are areas where people have built their own speed bumps outside their roadside café hoping for the odd chance you may stop and pop in. If there’s not too much of a crowd we may stop for a sandwich and a cup of tea.
They drink tea here like we drink coffee at the office. It provides a potent caffeine kick. Be sure to order “la’a sucre” otherwise they will prepare your tea with one teaspoon of tealeaves and two heaped tablespoons of sugar in a small glass teacup.
Roadside food generally consists of either falafel, aubergine, liver or fuul (fava beans) in a freshly baked Egyptian flat bread. Great for a quick lunch on the go.
We accepted an offer from our friendly police escorts to try some fish for lunch. We were quite excited and they lead us to their local spot, a perfect setting on the banks of the Nile. They ordered for us and a massive feast arrived at our table. The meal was delicious. Freshly caught Nile Perch crumbed and fried served with salad and Egyptian bread. The three policemen had the same meal delivered to their table but they ordered all the extras including tea and a shisha pipe. When they were finished they got up and walked off leaving us to pick up the bill. They were the ones laughing.
Everywhere we travelled along the Nile we were asked, “what’s your name?” Initially it seems as though they speak English but they generally have a vocabulary limited to the following:
1. “What’s your name?”
2. “Welcome to Egypt.”
3. “Money, money, money…”
We resorted to the response of, “my name is money.” That’s enough for some confusion and to buy some time to ride off before they ask for a dollar.
Everybody was very welcoming and excited to have us in their country. We were privileged to visit places of great historical value without the crowds but felt a bit guilty having it all to ourselves. What a great time to visit Egypt.