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Day 216 – Brown Teeth and Cigarettes

25th April 2012

sunny 39 °C

The ferry would depart at around five o’clock in the afternoon and we intended to be on board. Redvers however would be waiting for the vehicle barge which arrived on Friday, Holy Day. With that in mind it was time to spruce him up, fix his locks and get the window winding again, that way he’d feel a bit more cheery and we’d feel a little bit happier when we left him at the harbour. Fixing him up and clearing him out was how we spent our morning.

We filled his tank to the brim with cheap black market funded fuel and drove to the port. Mazir our fixer extraordinaire was nothing short of heroic. He was a gentleman and also a man who was clearly very adept at his job. He shuffled us through the hassles of Arabic immigration forms whilst clearing Redvers through customs and cracking jokes. The immigration hall was a jungle yet we somehow slipped through without too much of a fuss.

At the dock we fought our way around brown cardboard boxes stacked six feet high. Their sides bulged with a cargo likely more precious to its owners than anyone else. And then there were the boxes owners. Brown teeth like burnt out villages were bordered by leather, weather beaten, lips that smiled past cigarettes; more ash than tobacco hanging precariously from their filters. An occasional mucous warbled hack broke the hubbub and we weaved through the crowd to join the mass attempting to board the ferry. As we crossed the threshold our passports and boarding cards were taken and thrown into a cardboard box that lay battered and skew on the floor. We stared at each other in mock fear as Mazir led us on a truncated and convoluted ferry expedition that involved passing through a set of toilets before we found ourselves on the top deck and once more under a ferocious sun. We teamed up with a German couple, Falco and Ana and a Swiss couple, Kurt and Susanna where we created a European enclave amongst the cigarettes, the cargo and the thunderous phone conversations.

After four splendid hours sat on the deck desperately trying to avoid the sun, the ferry finally departed. The first class cabins were filled with more cargo than people, first class status being achieved by offering a.) a door, b.) a foam mattress and c.) an air conditioning unit. Other than those three items they were fairly pokey and a little grubby. Up top, in the cheap seats, the European enclave began a subdued war with everyone that insisted on trampling over our feet to smoke cigarettes ahead of us and shake their still burning tobacco on to us.

Another glorious sunset gave way to a clear night sky whose moonlight twinkled on the water beneath. We were treated to a night time view of the illuminated Egyptian temple at Abu Simbel perched on the edge of the lake. Had the temple remained in its original position it would be an aquatic palace by now. But, when the Aswan High Dam was conceived it was soon realised that the flooding that would create Lake Nasser would submerge many of the temples and antiquities that stood on the Nile’s banks. Abu Simbel was one of the lucky structures that was taken apart ten tonne piece by ten tonne piece and relocated to higher, and drier, ground. It was no small undertaking at US$40 million in the 1960’s but it was definitely worth it, as a revenue creating scheme if nothing else. It has to be wondered though, what was the greater achievement, building it in the first place or relocating it three thousand years later?

The boat was stopped later in the evening as an Egyptian police boat pulled alongside and the officers boarded to stamp our passports into Egypt. Their office was tiny with one door as both entrance and exit. The queue wasn’t so much of a queue as a crush and inside the office passports were coming from over our heads, past our legs and through the small cabin window.

Up to it had grown very dark, the night had grown cold and we poor second class citizens huddled into our sleeping bags as the crisp wind turned the star blanketed night cold.

Posted by ibeamish 09:45 Archived in Egypt

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