Yesterday involved a day entirely dedicated to tourism. Nagy, our taxi driver, picked us up at 9am and we headed straight to the Sudanese embassy to collect our passports and visas. After the circus the day before, we were surprised to be in and out in less than 5 minutes. We are now permitted entry into Sudan, thankfully. Without visas, we would have to completely re-do our route which isn’t something we want to have to even contemplate at this point in time. During the 5 minutes we were at the embassy, Wade took a photo of a car number plate (Arabic lettering) and managed to attract the attention of who I presume were some Sudanese embassy officials who didn’t appreciate Wade’s great eye for photographic subjects and quite firmly told him not to take photos. We lied and said no photos were taken and then proceeded to act very calm and casual despite almost pissing our pants in fear.
After almost getting arrested, we went to check out the Muhammad Ali Mosque (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosque_of_Muhammad_Ali) which was spectacular and beautiful. After an hour or so there, Nagy drove us into the City of the Dead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_the_Dead_(Cairo)) which is an enormous Muslim Cemetery which is many, many kilometers long. Aside from obviously being where you bury loved ones, it’s also where up to half a million very poor people live. We were told not to go in there alone, so Nagy came with us and took us into Muhammad Ali’s family’s mosque which was, like so much in Cairo, grand and beautiful. We had a guided tour by one of Nagy’s friends and ended up on the roof top of the mosque, jumping from roof to roof after our old but very agile guide. I felt like I was in a real life game of Assassin’s Creed (for your geeks out there). Inside the mosque, the guide demonstrated the acoustics by giving us a mock call to prayer which gave me goose bumps. Check out the video here.
Afterwards, we went to Khan el-Khalili souk (market) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khan_el-Khalili) and spent a couple of hours walking around and looking at the hundreds of stalls and being pestered to buy everything (seriously, everything). Gavan needs a pair of occy straps for his bike and attempted to mime these to a non-English speaking store owner in the hope that his hardware’esque store stocked them. After a couple of minutes of Gavan doing his best occy strap impersonation, the guy’s eyes lit up and he gestured for us to follow him where he’d sort us out. I suggested Gavan take part in charades world championships when they come around (London 2012?). We were lead to a store and Gavan was given a pair of the biggest fishing hooks I’ve ever seen in my life. We laughed.. A lot.
After this we came back to our hotel and went in the search for some beer (in a predominately Muslim area). This is impossible. A young enterprising kid saw our despondent faces and told us he can get beer for us. “Just follow me” he gestured, “we go to my family’s shop”. True to his word, we ended up in his family’s gift and art shop where he pulled out 3 beers and 2x small bottles of vodka from the fridge, wrapped tightly in a black garbage bag. He was clearly impressed with himself. We asked for more and he jumped into a cab and returned about 40 minutes later with our order fulfilled (at 50% of the price of beer at our hotel). Chuffed, we returned to our hotel and consumed our beer only to to return to the gift shop 3 hours later for more. Same deal- another cab, more waiting, and more cheap beers. The shop didn’t have one single customer in it for the hours we spent in there, but we all got along famously with the local guys in the store. We ended up going back again (yes, a third time) only to talk and drink tea and coffee with them and get an idea of their thoughts on Cairo in its current state. We had such a good night with them. Afterwards, we ended up at a bar and were treated like celebrities. There was a live band playing and Gavan told the band that I was a great drummer and suggested the band let me play. I had no idea this was going on until I was demanded to play. Drunk and overly confident, I jumped behind and proceeded to pretend I know how to play the drums, much to Gavan & Shane’s hysteria. My performance was woeful, but we all thought it was great laugh.
Bleary eyed and quite hungover, we awoke today to go and see some more pyramids outside of Cairo and also spend some time in the Cairo museum which was incredible. I had no idea just how many Egyptian artifacts there are!! What a blast.
We’ve done a basic shop for supplies for when we ride out tomorrow (noodles, beans, stock and some sanitary pads which wade jokingly snuck into the shopping basket, and none of us realized until we got home). We’re tired but very excited about tomorrow. Sleep may not be too forthcoming tonight. I hope it is.
A couple of random points;
1- As people who know me know, I have a tattoo sleeve which I’ve never regretted having. Never, until coming to Africa that is. Everywhere I walk, people point at me, approach me (nice tattoo man!) and just generally gawk. It’s so intimidating and is counter productive to all of the effort I’ve gone to being non-descript for this journey. The last thing any of us want to do is draw unnecessary attention to ourselves (I realize how ridiculous this sounds, considering we’re 4 lycra-clad cyclists in Africa) but I am furiously trying to source some kind of light-weight long sleeve shirt to cover my tattoos in public spaces.
2- I have just bought a local SIM so should be able to make some phone calls over the next couple of days. Shu, Mum and Dad- answer the phone is you get a random international number in the next few days….!!
3- I have had an eye-popping amount of visits to this webpage over the last couple of days. Please feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to say hi and let me know how you found your way over here.
4- New photos and videos are up. Photos are on this website (here) and videos are on my youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/justinvafrica .
So, this is it… My next update will be somewhere along the Red Sea. We’re riding about 130kms tomorrow and about 160-170kms the following days, so the next update will be done with some seriously tired legs.
Thanks for visiting