Egypt #8 – There is only one hotel in Edfu

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I’m at about 20 km from Edfu when I’m ordered by a high ranking police officer – he has eagles on his shoulders – to load the trailer and bicycle at the back of a pick-up and hop in. The night has already fallen and there is no point discussing.

I didn’t make it to Edfu on time because I left Luxor late in the morning and stopped in Tod, a village situated south of Luxor, in which Live is Beautiful is active in a school. Kris and Galal, a member of the organisation, invited me over for tea and introduced me to some of the children they tutor.

The pick-up stops in front of « Paradise Hotel », at the entrance of Edfu. I unload my gear and enter the hotel, not sure if it’s really there I want to stay, as I’m always suspicious when I’m told by someone I have to stay somewhere.

The officer leads me to the office of the hotel manager, sitting behind a desk covered of paperwork piles and an ashtray brimming with cigarette butts. The manager Continue reading “Egypt #8 – There is only one hotel in Edfu”

Égypte #8 – Il n’y a qu’un seul hôtel à Edfu

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Il ne me reste que 20 kilomètres à parcourir afin d’atteindre Edfu lorsqu’un haut gradé de la police – il a des aigles sur les épaules – m’ordonne, à la nuit tombante, d’embarquer dans un pick-up.

J’ai quitté Louxor trop tard dans la matinée et je me suis arrêté à Tod, un village au sud de Louxor où l’association Live is Beautiful est active dans une école. Kris et Galal, l’un des membres de l’association, m’ont invité à prendre le thé et à rencontrer les enfants qu’ils encadrent.

Arrivé à Edfu, le pick-up s’arrête en face du « Paradise Hotel », à l’entrée de la ville. Je décharge mon matériel et me dirige vers l’entrée, pas vraiment certain que c’est bien là que je souhaite passer la nuit. De manière générale, je me méfie lorsqu’on décide à ma place.

L’officier m’entraîne vers le bureau du gestionnaire de l’hôtel. Celui-ci est assis derrière un bureau couvert de paperasse empilée et d’un cendrier débordant de mégots de cigarettes. Il me donne Continue reading “Égypte #8 – Il n’y a qu’un seul hôtel à Edfu”

Egypt #7 – Police Escorts

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I am looking forward to a day of solitary cycling, after my dodgy night at the Zaafarana police station. It is around 6:45am when my luggage is packed and loaded on Rafiki. I get on the bicycle and cycle towards the checkpoint to access the road going south, to Ras Gharib. At the checkpoint, yesterday’s officer asks me to wait a few minutes again. He calls « the general » on the radio.

The reason why I decided to make a detour along the Red Sea instead of taking the more natural way along the River Nile, is because a section of the Nile route, situated between Cairo and Qena, is restricted for tourists. Taking that route would necessitate a police escort through the territory. Besides being constantly followed, having escorts would also prevent me from stopping when and where I would like to, and would most certainly impede encounters along the way.

A reply from the general Continue reading “Egypt #7 – Police Escorts”

Égypte #7 – Les escortes de police

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J’ai hâte de profiter d’une journée en solitaire à vélo après l’ambiance pesante du poste de police de Zaafarana. Il est environ 6h45 lorsque mes affaires sont rangées dans mes bagages et chargées sur le vélo. J’enfourche Rafiki et me dirige vers le checkpoint afin d’accéder à la route de Ras Gharib, vers le sud. Au point de contrôle, l’officier d’hier me demande à nouveau d’attendre quelques minutes. Il appelle « le général » à la radio.

J’ai décidé de prendre la route qui longe la mer Rouge, un peu plus longue que celle suivant le Nil, car l’accès à la « route agricole » est restreinte aux touristes et nécessite une escorte policière. Prendre cet itinéraire aurait signifié être escorté par la police depuis Le Caire jusqu’à Qena, soit sur près de 600 kilomètres. Au-delà du fait d’être tout le temps suivi, ces escortes m’auraient aussi empêchées de m’arrêter quand et où je l’aurais souhaité. Elles auraient certainement empêché bon nombre de rencontres tout au long du parcours.

La réponse du général Continue reading “Égypte #7 – Les escortes de police”

Egypt #6 – The Dodgy Zaafarana Police Station

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It is around 2:30 pm when I get stopped at the Zaafarana checkpoint. The officer in charge asks for my passport and my whereabouts. He writes the information down in a logbook and asks to open my bags and trailer for inspection. Once the inspection is finished, I get on my bike again to continue my route, but immediately get stopped. I’m told to load my bike and my trailer in the back of a pick-up to be brought to Ras Gharib. I explain that I don’t want to get there by car but by bicycle. I am hence told to wait as « the general » needs to be called on the radio. After quite some time, at around 3:30pm, I am told that I will only be allowed to cycle on the next day as it is already too late in the afternoon. I am told to follow a police car which brings me to the nearby police station where I am to spend the night.

Though in the middle of nowhere, the Zaafarana police station seems to Continue reading “Egypt #6 – The Dodgy Zaafarana Police Station”

Égypte #6 – Le poste de police de Zaafarana

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Il est environ 14h30 lorsque je me fais arrêter au poste de contrôle de Zaafarana. L’officier en charge me demande mon passeport, ma provenance et ma destination. Il prend note des informations dans un journal de bord et me demande d’ouvrir mes sacoches et la remorque pour vérifier leurs contenu. Une fois l’inspection terminée, je me remets sur le vélo pour reprendre la route, mais je suis interrompu dans mon élan. L’officier me dit de charger Bucéphale et Pumba dans un pick-up afin d’être conduit jusque Ras Gharib. J’explique que je ne souhaite pas faire le trajet en voiture, mais à vélo. L’officier me demande d’attendre et appelle « le général » par radio. Après quelques temps, vers 15h30, on m’annonce qu’il est trop tard pour que je puisse encore faire la route à vélo, mais que Continue reading “Égypte #6 – Le poste de police de Zaafarana”

Egypt #5 – Highway to the Red Sea

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I’m in the desert, at about 40 km away from Zahraa el Maadi, when I stop to picnic on the side of a round-about. I sit on the railing and watch trucks and cars pass by as they wave their hands and sometimes greet a «Welcome to Egypt!». I wave back and shout thank-yous in response. Some of them stop to ask if I need water. I think of all the weight I already have on my bicycle. I left this morning with 6,5 litres of water and still have more than 5 left, for two days of cycling through the desert. I believe I have enough, so I decline the offers.

Except for some minor detours, the road I’m on, runs parallel to the highway, separated by only a few hundred meters. The traffic is rather busy and mainly consist of trucks. I often have to cycle on the side of the road to avoid conflict, especially when being taken over while another vehicle approaches from the opposite direction. When cycling on the side, I have to be particularly cautious to avoid stones, sand, road waste and the likes, scattered on my way.

There are only two roads going to Aïn Sokhna from Cairo. The road I’m on, and the highway. Set in the middle of the desert, the round-about I’m at is connecting the shoulders of the highway to the road and industrial facilities. I was told by fellow Egyptian cyclists that the best and safest route to take to reach Aïn Sokhna, as a cyclist, is the highway. Yet, I decided to take the road as, for the European cyclist I am, highways are a no-go zone. Not just because cyclists are not allowed to cycle on highways, but because highways are synonymous of high speed traffic, and, the higher the speed of vehicles, the higher the vulnerability of the cyclist.

I check the map before getting on my bike and notice that there is another shoulder just further on the highway and one about 10 km away. Knowing that, I decide to test my friend’s advice after all, and this is what I find : Continue reading “Egypt #5 – Highway to the Red Sea”