M Y O B

The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

TRAVELS IN EGYPT

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Alex Location

Red arrow points to Alexandria

With occasional periods of vacation, local holidays and most weekends, it was possible to travel around in much of Egypt. Still, there is a lot of it I never saw. I wanted to get to the Siwah Oasis, but never did. Still, I got around, both by driving and by bus. I made it a point to blend in with the population: I bought my shoes and clothes in Egypt, I wore a (fake) elephant-hair bracelet and kept my mouth shut. As it happened, there were many Lebanese in Egypt then, and they tend to be lighter-skinned. So, most people took me to be Lebanese, and left me alone.

It helped that all of us had  a “Warrah”  (papers) which we carried at all times. I remember one occasion far west from Alex (actually, Ras el Hekma, about which more later) when our group of 4 was apprehended by a member of the Camel Corps. He made it clear we needed Warrah, and I happened to be the only one who had brought mine along. I handed it to the gentleman who studied it intently, holding it upside-down! I’m sure when he reported on us, he explained that he had “seen our papers”. Anyway, he let us go on our way without delay.

Warrah

We carried our papers at all times

Readers may note that the papers mention Cairo: at some point in my first year in Alex, our contracts were expanded to include Cairo, and I eventually worked there for a while. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My first forays out of Alex were to Port Said. At the time, Port Said had a large “duty-free zone” which drew Egyptians from all over to buy and bargain, often over some of the shoddiest crapola merchandise I ever saw!

The red arrow points to Port Said

The town itself was rather quaint:

Port Said 1

Loading a bus in Alex: destination, Port Said

Port Said 2

Some interesting older buildings survived in Port Said

Trips-Port Said 02

Port Said town had not suffered much in the '67 war

Trips-Port Said 04

There was a nice town square in Port Said

I often took my friends with me on these trips, because I could carry things back for them they could not carry themselves: foreigners like me were never rigorously inspected as the Egyptians were when leaving Port Said. Even though PS was a “duty-free zone”, anything taken OUT of the zone had a duty to be paid, and the inspectors were adept at picking out the guys with 30 shirts on, or watches up to their arm-pits.

Port Said is one end of the Suez Canal; on the shore opposite Port Said is Port Fouad, which technically, is in Asia (minor). The shortest route from Africa to Asia is by boat across the Suez Canal at  Port Said: like everyone else, I did it once just to say I had.

Port Fouad

That's Asia over there!

Up the canal a short distant is Ismailia:

Ismailia Location

The red arrow points to Ismailia, Egypt

The town was not a lot in those days, but some views of the canal and of the Bitter Lakes could be had.

Ismailia

Actually, that's part of the Suez Canal

Bitter Lakes

Ships in the Bitter Lakes

The Bitter Lakes are part of the Suez Canal. A wonderful aerial view of them can be seen here:   The other end of the Suez Canal was at Suez (city). This was a bit longer trip from Alex. The shortest route was on the road which goes along the Canal, but we were often turned back from that route, I suppose because we looked like terrorists. But my Warrah did get me on to it a time or two, and there was almost nothing to see. In the town of Suez, there was still a lot of damage left from the ’67 war.

Suez Location

The red arrow points to the town of Suez, Egypt

Suez 1

Ship in the Suez Canal

Suez 2

Damage inflicted by Israel in '67

A number of us stationed in Alex did get out to the Qattara Depression.

Qattara Location

The red arrow points to the general location of the Qattara Depression

The Qattara Depression is an area of about 26,000 km² which lies below sea level. Its lowest point is 134 meters below sea level. It is pretty remote!

Westward Ho

On the road west from Alexandria

Driver

Yours truly at the wheel

Trouble in Paradise

Not the best place for a break-down!

Towards Quattara

A stray camel has crossed the road ahead

Qattara Depression 1

Nearly everything in this picture is below sea level

Qattara Depression 2

In all, it is a depressing place!

Aeolian Erosion 1

There are many fantastic forms in the depression

Aeolian Erosion 2

Erosion caused by wind-blown sand

Research Station

Research station on the edge of the depression

Desert Flowers

Despite to lack of water, plants do thrive and bloom in the desert

I will describe more of my travels in Egypt in future pages.

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Written by Editor

April 23rd, 2010 at 11:36 am

Posted in Egypt