First, let me start with the good stuff. Luxor was the great capital of upper Egypt during the new Kingdom (16th-11th century BC). The valley of the kings, with the beautiful Luxor Temple right in the middle of the city as well as the astonishing Karnak temple, is close to it.
While in Luxor, you are definitely in the biggest outdoor museum on earth. With it comes tourism. I was told that before the revolution in 2011, it wasn’t as bad as today, but since fewer tourists visit the city nowadays, some locals try as hard as they can to get as much money as possible out of the remaining tourists. That made me feel really uncomfortable. Of course, in the end it is like 1% of the local population that gives you a hard time, which is a sad story, but it changed my whole attitude towards Egypt for some time. I just wanted to get out of this place because I literally felt like a walking ATM. Every time I had to pay something I had to be careful to get enough money back. Sometimes paying a meal, which was 35 Egyptian pounds, with a 200 pounds bill and only getting back 65 Egyptian pounds. This happened to me on numerous occasions and I just got really tired of it. I lost the whole trust in anyone just because of the few. I hate the feeling of getting ripped off every time I need to use money. Luckily the people in Aswan were friendlier again.
My way from Luxor to Aswan
I left Luxor at 05:00am to get a head start before the sun goes up. I don’t know if little boys in Egypt don’t need any sleep, but they started following me as soon as I had left the hostel. They were screaming and shouting at me, laughing about their jokes, which I didn’t understand and kept asking for money. I truly thought this would not start until Ethiopia… I always tried to be friendly, denying that I had money and pointed at my mean of transportation. Guys, I am riding a bicycle, I really don’t have any money. Some just turned around and left, others were saying Fuck You while they disappeared. Others tried to push me off my bicycle, and the most common thing was to throw stones at me whenever I told them that I didn’t have any money. I know they are kids, but if that happens during the whole day, and I am spending a lot of time on the bicycle, it can become really tiring. It is hard to switch from super happy mode, to being angry and back again to smile at people because everyone is waving at you. I guess that is also part of the experience of the way I travel. It’s tough on the mind but also a big learning. I will have many encounters with people in the future who might not like me, where they will try to put stones in my way, causing me to fall. However, I guess that’s part of life and I am in the process of learning how to deal with it. The physical challenge of my trip is way smaller than the mental one. The sad story is that 99 people can be very nice, and just one encounter can destroy how the other 99 have treated you. So, I am really focusing now not to get disturbed by the one that tries to do bad things to me, and rather enjoy how the other 99 brought happiness into my day. I am highly enjoying my trip, and no one said it would be easy. If I learn to accept everything they way it is, since I can’t change it anyway, I think I can benefit a lot from this trip. This is also an initial thought of why I want to do this trip. I have so much time to work on myself every day, so I might as well take advantage of it to look at everything in a positive way in order to strengthen my thinking and my mindset.
The beginning of Eid Mubarak
Eid al Adha is also called the Festival of Sacrifice and lasts for 4 days. As usual I went to sleep at 8:00pm to be ready at 04:00am again to leave. It is nothing special if the honking of cars, motorcycles and tuctuc’s goes on all night long. Even to the chant of the muezzin at 04:30am I got used to. Hitting the road again along the Nile towards Aswan, I was able to experience the holiest day of the whole Muslim calendar on my bicycle, cycling from one town through another. Before 05:30am the roads were very empty, and it was amazing to see the sun rise over the mountains in the background. Then suddenly people started to come out of their houses and walked along the road to the praying field. I think the reason for them to pray on large fields on that day is because mosques are not large enough to fit everyone inside. All the men and boys were walking together, wearing their Thawb or Thobe and everyone looked really nice. All the women and girls did their own thing, usually gathering in front of a bigger building, I guess it was a mosque as well to do their prayers. At 06:00am the praying started, it looked amazing all the men being lined up and praying together. Out of respect towards them, I did not take any pictures. After the praying was over, people moved back to their houses again. From then on, the slaughtering of sheep and cows started. I was passed by many cars and motorcycled loaded with animals. All along the road I saw the men butchering the animal, and the wives cleaning its entrails. I didn’t see what they were doing with it afterwards, I guess they ate it, but the skin and some entrails of the animals are still, as of now, laying all around Elephant Island, where my guesthouse is. The smell of rotten animal skin is not pleasurable at all. Nothing for a weak stomach. Nevertheless, it was amazing for me to experience this procedure on my bicycle. See, if you travel slow, you can experience so much more just by pedalling through the towns.
Daily I need to make decisions, sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s not. While arriving in Aswan on Tuesday, I had to decide whether to wait until Sunday to take the ferry to Whadi Halfa, or to cycle to Abu Simbel on Thursday and take the Ferry from there. Taking the ferry from Abu Simbel would have meant to cycle 300km through the desert with barely any shops, but I kind of wanted to move on, I already relaxed a lot in Egypt and I felt bored waiting till Sunday again. However, I have decided to take the ferry from Aswan on Sunday, I heard it is a beautiful journey along one of the biggest artificial lakes on earth, called lake Nasser. It was the right decision, I needed some time to talk to my family since my grandmother peacefully passed away at the age of 95 last Thursday. For you it sounds like an easy decision, but Inreally had a sleepless night because of it, haha, but talking to my Mom always helps. I don’t think I could do all of that without my Mom and Dad as well as my brother at home, supporting me whenever I need it.
The ferry will approximately take 22 hours, until I arrive in Whadi Halfa. From there I will have only desert until Khartoum where I will hopefully arrive before my birthday. It is around 1200 km, and I am planning to do it in 11 days. I guess around 90% of the time I will be wild camping in the desert, but I heard from other cyclists that Sudan is amazing for that and that its people would be very very welcoming and friendly. As you might now, for my fundraising project I am sending out postcards. It will be interesting to see if I will be able to send postcards out of Sudan. Some people that live there even told me there is no Post service in Sudan. I really hope there is one, since sooo many people have already ordered postcards from Sudan and I am looking forward to writing them.