Hitchin, Great Britain. E-Day minus 10

by - November 03, 2010

It is now November and Overlord is long gone. For the last few months I have been restlessly working to earn money for a few more adventures over the coming ‘gap’ year.  I am hoping that gap is a rubbish way of describing the coming year as I am intent upon it being very well filled.  The first part of this filling the gap comes in the form of a 10 day trip to Egypt.  For all of you avid Overlord followers who witnessed the dramatic cliffhanger in Ljubljana which left me without a passport, I am pleased to tell you that I have a new one.  I have to say that Egypt hadn’t particularly occurred to me as a destination and the principle reason for my travelling there is that I have a friend out there already.  Tom, of being hit by a branch through the train door fame, is currently in Alexandria teaching English and will be our in country rendezvous.  I say we because I shall have an accomplice for my trip - Danni Swinburne for all those who don’t know.

After Overlord, a name which was originally a joke between me and Daniel in the common room, stuck so emphatically to our interrailing in Europe this summer, (www.overlord2010.blogspot.com) I wanted to try and think of a catchy title for this trip.  At first Operation Pharaohlord/Overpharaoah seemed promising, until I decided it sounded ridiculous and realized that perhaps the trip didn’t suit a nickname.  The blog, however, needed a title and this would have to incorporate something Egyptian, with the fact we are going in winter, with a bit of Britishness and this of course led to Ice Cold in Alex.  For those of you who don’t know, this is a fiction book written about a group of British soldiers in World War Two who are stranded in the Egyptian desert and spend a lot of time thinking about having an ice cold beer in Alexandria when they find civilization again.  It is tenuous and nowhere near as catchy as Overlord, but it will do until I can think of something better.  At the very least, my name is Alex and I am so cool I am ice cold. Or something.

 I have, of course, planned the trip extensively.  We depart on the 14th November from Heathrow to Cairo and arrive back from Luxor on the 24th November.  We are lucky that at the start of November, Easyjet opened up a route from Gatwick to Luxor which is a third of the price of British Airways/BMI/Egyptian Airways, who have up until now held the monopoly on flights to Egypt.  There is a good chance that it will open up the country to budget travel.  At the moment, the itinerary is thus:

14th Nov to 18th Nov - Cairo

The Pyramids at Giza, Cairo
18th Nov to 20th Nov - Alexandria OR one of the Oases
Alexandria Harbour
Siwa Oasis

20th Nov to 24th Nov - Luxor
Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple, Luxor

Having said that Egypt hadn't occurred to me as a destination, there isn’t really a good reason why not.  As Lonely Planet points out, tourists have been arriving in Egypt for thousands of years - thinking about it, there are few cities in the world that evoke such feelings on interest and exoticism as Cairo.  For the modern tourist it has everything - some of the most famous sites in the world (including the only remaining wonder of the ancient world), a culture that is very different to the west, a wonderful warm winter climate and, from what I gather, enough chaos that to plan and pull off a trip there should give a real feeling of achievement.  Out of my travels to date, I feel that this trip is the most challenging.  It isn’t as long and complex as Overlord, or as dangerous as Costa Rica, but we are truly going to be a lot more isolated in Egypt - with neighboring countries of Libya, Sudan, Israel and Palestine, it is clear that this region of the world is one of the most volatile.  I say that I think we will feel isolated because of the language gap - Arabic is so completely different to English that it will be impossible to translate any signs in Arabic script.  I am hoping that the English (and more recently Americans) have had enough of an imprint for multi-language signs to be common.
The hotel in Cairo is very budget - it costs £3 per night per person, but it has very favourable reviews (apart from a few which say there tend to be a lot of dead cats around, but some people are just overly negative).  In Luxor we are going a bit more upmarket (to £15 per person per night) and this will get us a hotel with a rooftop swimming pool and a Nile view balcony.  Our primary means of travel around the country is the railway system, a remnant of the British colonial days.  The trains apparently have three classes, appropraitely named first, second and third.  A third class ticket from Cairo to Alexandria costs about 50p, A first class ticket costs about £5.  As I say, there is definitely the potential for shoestring budget travelers to start arriving here.  There is a gap between Cairo and Luxor which is, painfully for me, as yet unplanned.  What we do in these few days will be decided when we are in country.  The original plan was to spend some time with Tom in Alexandria, but it now looks like he will join us for the whole trip and he says there isn’t much point in going there, so who knows where we will end up.  We depart in just over a week’s time.  See you in Cairo.

You May Also Like