Cape Town to Cairo 2012

Day 64 to Day 68 - July 30th-August 3rd

We left Hurghada early in the morning in the hopes of avoiding the impossible Cairo traffic.  We headed north along the Red Sea towards Suez.

 

For 15-20 miles there were huge numbers of unoccupied partially constructed condominiums and hotels; I have never seen a larger, more focused real estate bust than this.  Two-thirds to three-quarters of every building we saw along the coast fell into what we would call a “non-performing asset.”

 

You wonder how a country the size of Egypt could sustain this multi-billion dollar bust.

We passed by a huge wind turbine farm with several thousand out-dated turbines with approximately 1/3 of them not working.  It was in close proximity to active petroleum fields where natural gas was being flared (wasted).

Offshore we could see LNG (liquefied natural gas) carrier sitting idle – a roughly $200 million asset wasting at anchor.

Ships were built with the anticipation of permanent high natural gas prices, which is still in the $3.00/1000 cubic feet range, less than half of what it used to be when many of these ships were built.

The sum of all these items points to gross financial incompetence – whether it’s individual investors or lack of government oversight, it’s disappointing to see a nation of Egyptians misallocating their scarce resources.

Unlike the edge of the Nile, which generally has at least 100 yards of greenery at its banks, at the Red Sea the desert runs right to the water’s edge.  As we get closer to Suez, there is more indication of shipping; large storage tanks for oil, super tankers at anchor and moving slowly, many offshore production rigs and a few jack up drilling rigs.  Egypt produces significant energy and is a net exporter of oil.

We did run into Cairo traffic and taxi-cab drivers that like to play dodgems with motorcycles.  It’s a game of nerves which is more fun to play with a rental car in a US city than a motorcycle in an unfamiliar place.

Helge’s first step is a photo op at the pyramids, which requires driving through the tourist infrastructure of Giza where the camels and horses live.  I didn’t mind the piles of manure but I did mind breathing manure dust.

 

We arrive at the pyramid,

 

And get plenty of photographs:

 

Everyone is taking pictures and there is a lot of racing around in the sand, including Helge.

 

The sand is very difficult to drive in, but Helge has it mastered.  While all this is going on, I‘m fooling around with the camels . . .

 

This little fellow seemed very affectionate and seemed to want to snuggle until I reached down and touched some of his grass; at which time he bit me on the forehead.

 

I hope he’s not carrying the Ebola virus!

We check into a terrific hotel right at Giza in the shadow of the pyramid.

 

The next day we packed the bikes in a 20’ container after suffering through 6 hours of customs. 

 

At one point while waiting by the port, there was a seemingly drug-influenced man waving a knife and menacing the truck drivers as they emerge from the port.  The knife wielder is clearly intimidating people, and the nearby police did very little.  We’re told it was not like this before the revolution.  At that time, if a body was found on the street, the police would grab everyone in sight and extract confessions from perhaps 5-6 people.  Then there only problem would be to determine who of the six confessors actually did it.  Torture was Mubarak’s signature tool.

The next day we had an enjoyable dinner with Raymond Baker, a close friend and colleague of Jack Waggett’s, one of my college roommates.  Raymond has lived on-and-off in Egypt for decades.  He is an expert on democracy in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood and provided fascinating insight as to why the Egyptian situation (with respect to having a democracy share government power with the army) is considerably different than the same situation in Turkey – where the army turned out to be a positive catalyst in the development of their current democracy.

On our final day we toured Tahrir Square which is still half-heartedly occupied . . .

 


. . . but the graffiti is spectacular - these are some significant members of the revolution.

 

And here is a picture of Mubarak and some of his top aides.

 

Here’s a depiction of a funeral ceremony combining an ancient Egyptian motif with a picture of the deceased revolutionary.

 

They’re not above swearing.

 

This is the one I like the best – it has the taste of Che Guevara.

 

The administrative council’s building adjacent to the square is completely burned out.

 

And it sits in close proximity to the Egyptian museum – which we toured for 1.5 hours.

 

When I first saw this museum in the early ‘50s (being dragged behind my father who was a history buff), it was little more than a disorganized attic.  It has emerged into a warehouse with occasional labels on the artifacts, but still needs much more organization and detailed explanations.  It is surprising to me that Egypt with its strong tourist industry has not risen to the occasion and created something significant out of this important asset.

Cairo is a beautiful city lined with boulevards.

 

We drive out to the pyramids,

 

And also see the Sphinx.

 

The four of us have been using Aperture software for photo modifications and with this software Helge has both improved my looks and given me the nose of a sphinx.

We take a hike up, and are amused that the tourist police are generally in a sleeping mode – here are a few who didn’t like being photographed snoozing.

 

Later we go shopping and I buy an outfit for the trip home.

 

We rise at 4:00 a.m. the next day and catch our planes to various locations.  It will be more than 24 hours before we reach home.

 

 

Hurghada, Egypt to Alexandria, Egypt
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