It is nice to be out of Cairo and into Europe. Cairo left a bad taste of bureaucracy and incompetence run rampant, not to mention the unbelievable city traffic. It was not the way I would like to have finished my trip Up Africa – I should have gone directly home from Dongola, Sudan where everyone is calm and as sweet as apple pie. But, the unbelievable (literally) difficulties of getting out of Africa will fade with time.
I liked the Egyptians I met. I loved the way seemingly all Egyptian men shout and come almost to blows with each other constantly only to cool it with a smile and hug, or a calm “Asalaam Alecum” in the end. Life is frustrating in the big city and it seems like everyone has a very short fuse and needs to blow up at least once every 5 minutes.
The Revolution is the main topic of conversation for everyone and not just in Tahrir Square – taxi drivers, young people, bar tender in the hotel, guys hanging out at tea shops, … of course, I didn’t talk to any women, but I’d bet that’s what they like to discuss among themselves as well. Everyone seems to want Mubarak to go to jail – and maybe he will. His unseemly wealth accumulation has convicted him as much as anything and he has become the goat for all that has not gone right in Egypt for the last 40 years.
Personally, I think that the baksheesh demanding petty bureaucrats of the Car Customs Department in Cairo are the main culprits and should all be sent to jail (or perhaps just shot), if not for demanding a few Egyptians Pounds “under the table” for every signature and stamp that their jobs entail, then for being cowards when it comes to signing or stamping because “something could go wrong” and they would be left holding the “bag of shite” – better to stay out of it by not putting your name on anything, but take the money anyway!
I thought that the Sudanese border Customs people took the cake when it came to bureaucratic process, but they were all nice and made no effort to extort money from me – there were just a lot of people involved in filling out papers - in duplicate - and stamping and signing and looking closely at the numbers stamped on the bike etc.
The Egyptians though have the whole thing down to a science of complexity, obfuscation, and avoidance of personal responsibility. I advise you not to take your vehicle with you when you go to see the Pyramids and Temples or to ride a boat down the Nile; bringing your own vehicle could turn you into a frustrated and angry old man who just wants to get back to where things are orderly and efficient and pretty much, in fact, as they seem to be on the surface. I like Germany.
I hope my bike actually arrives here in a couple of days on a British Airways Cargo flight from Cairo -- although, I won't be at all surprised if it never leaves Egypt.
Africa has been a great and good adventure. People are pretty much the same everywhere - and almost all of them are very nice, very friendly, and would make good neighbors.
Still, I’ll like being home again in just a few more days; where should I go next time? Turkey? Russia? Back to Scotland? Vietnam?