Friday, 21 October 2011


Great Pyramid looking to Cairo.  Photo (as all others) on my iPhone
Seven weeks, eight countries, 12,453 km and now we're in Cairo.
This is how you get to Cairo: from Hurghada on the Red Sea, up the freeway to just south of the city of Suez, chuck a leftie and bingo! Cairo!  And that's what we did yesterday.
Strange to be here, after all those weeks of getting up, often at 5:00 am, to squeeze into the 'Stang and drive on through the continent, and now, no more...
Cheers to all!
Update (28th October 2011): Now basically finished on this blog, as the trip's over and I'm back in Hong Kong.  Do feel free to comment on any post, though, as I'll be notified of comments and like to keep dialogue going with readers and participants. 
Update (10th January, 2013): On the issue of Aid to Africa, which I said something about here and here: an article in The Spectator, "The great aid mystery", of 5th January 2013 is well worth a read.  A companion piece asks why there should be an arbitrary goal of 0.7% of GNP "rink-fenced" for aid, which is counter-productive to its responsible deployment, in "Greening's challenge".  

Update (4 September, 2013): Re Aid to Africa, Joe Nocera writes in the New York Times, about Jeffrey Sachs and the factors in Africa's recently better economic performances: seeming to be less to do with aid and more to do with better governance and sounder economic policies.... Fighting poverty and critics. [pdf]
Update (4 June, 2013):  There's been a bit of activity on the post about the first of these Cape to Cairo trips in 1913 (or attempt, for they did not make it), and there's going to be more as well, about which I'll remain mum until it's out.  Here.
[Back to 21 October 2011]: We're driving (yesterday at dawn) up the Red Sea coast, east side, past mile on mile of new developments, with aspirational names, like Orlando, Malibu, Amalfi.  Yes, this is the "Amalfi of Egypt", as in "Suzhou is the Venice of China".... as in, Suzhou's nothing like Venice and this highway in Egypt is nothing like Amalfi.  Though it's water on our right and road winding past these developments, mostly unfinished, empty, unworked on, money burned, cemented into the sand.
These lonesome developments are windswept as we drive by,  25-knot northerlies, the sea white-capped, Sinai on the horizon.  We guess that it's windy a lot.  The clue: a monster windfarm on our left, at least one thousand mills spinning in the breeze, the largest I've seen, bigger even than those in northern Germany and Denmark.

Today I'm in Al-Azhar park in Cairo, mixing with Cairenes, on this, their weekly day off.  It's a fine park, newly reopened, neat tidy lawns, King Palms, outdoor cafs and folks strolling, picnics on the grass.  Young girls of pre-veiling age, come up to me: "How arrre you?  What is yourrrr name", the Arab trill in the "r", and they're friendly, open, wanting to practice their little English.

We've been to the Pyramids this morning with the cars, the aim to take their photo in a group in front, but the guys there say that we can't take photos with the cars as that's "advertising", and if we do we have to pay 3,000 Egyptian Pounds, about $US 500, so we leave them outside, take a few sneaky photos anyway, and head off for the requisite pyramid visit on foot.

I take a car in the arvo with driver Sayyid, who looks just like Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian intellectual and key proponent of the Muslim Brotherhood in the fifties.  I say to him, "Sayyid as in Sayyid Qutb!" wondering how he'll take that, as the Brotherhood was illegal under Mubarak, and is now jockeying for position in the post-Mubarak era. "But Qutb is dead" he says. "Indeed, 1907 to 1963" I say, though I think I've got the dates a little wrong [*], "but you still look just like him, don't you".  He smiles and we leave on our tour.  I think it's just a matter of lack of communication.  On several levels, I guess.  I've read several of Qutb's books, "Milestones" and "Social Justice in Islam" that I recall, which remind me of the writings of Mao.  He was a poisonous little man, sexually repressed, all of which comes through in his writings, and his poison infects the Muslim Brotherhood to this day.
[*]: it's 1906-1966. More on Qutb here.

And now, it's not my usual TTFN ("Ta Ta For Now"), but TTFG ("Ta Ta For Good") at least on this blog.  Thanks to all for kind comments I've received via emails and third parties.  It's been a fine, and thankfully safe trip, and now we all look forward to returns home and to meeting new friends made, sometime in the sometime.  For me: tomorrow night back to Hongkers.  Jing's not even going to be home to meet me, as she's in Rome with son John, and won't be back till next Thursday, so it'll be a welcome from Arlene and the three dogs.

Cheers and "goodbye and goodluck"!
Mohammed -- of course! -- our horse buggy driver,
who -- of course! -- ripped me off.  I've 100% success in
being ripped off in any exchange in Egypt...

Sneaky photo of the mighty Mustang at our destination: the officials
here wouldn't let us take photos of cars with Pyramid unless we paid $US 500 per car....

Sayyid Ali the driver of the car I took round Cairo this arvo.  The spitting
image of his namesake, the famous (or infamous) Muslim Brother Sayyid Qutb

I've been banging on a bit about learning
Hyeroglyphs if you spend any time in Egypt.
These fine ones are on the roof of Hathor's temple in
Qeta, north of Luxor

Gordie divvies up the last of our cash, on the last day....

Then to the pyramids, Giza.  Not many people, right?  An outcome of the "Arab Spring"...

Jus' like Hong Kong!.... kids and mums play in the Al-Azhar park, Cairo.
All women wear veils or niqabs, unlike last time I was here, 1997, when it
was about 10-15% -- growing Islamic identification.
Muhammad Ali Mosque, Cairo.  At the top of the hill, at The Citadel.
Mum with three kids, very common: birth rates in Egypt are really high
as in all Africa. Most of the world's population increase
in coming decades will be in Africa, says the U.N.