So I successfully crossed the Nubian Desert and sailed Lake Nassar to arrive in the Nubian lands of Egypt and Aswan. First order of business is to get cleaned up. Thankfully with the Nile in close proximity I didn’t feel guilty about taking one of the longest showers in my life. Then I tried to nap. Exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. Yet.
Felucca on the Nile River in Aswan.
Spices and more street vendor in Aswan, Egypt.
I got to business and secured a GSM chip for my phone and began the arduous process of getting my bike released from customs. It was here in Egypt that I was indoctrinated to the concept of Baksheesh. When I dropped the bike at customs, the officer provided me with a letter that I was to take to the traffic police and from there pick up another document which I would take to the engineer. The engineer would have to return to the port at the High Dam where the bike is stored (about 20 minutes drive from downtown Aswan) and verify the chassis and engine numbers. I would then take the engineer’s certification back to the traffic police and I would be assigned a set of vehicle license plates. But before they could give me the plates, I would need to purchase insurance for the duration of my temporary import permit and my visa: 30 days. It took most of the day Friday, when the traffic police offices are open, to get everything handled with the exception of the insurance. The insurance office, which is run by the government and housed in a government bank building, is closed. Seems it’s always closed: Every Friday, Saturday and Holidays. And Sunday is a holiday too.
Ad Hoc Sculpture Garden Exhibit above the Nile in Aswan. Not a tourist in sight.
After the customs officer was finished explaining all of this, and at his request, gave him a key to the bike, and received a receipt for the approx $7 customs fee he point blank looked at me and asked, “and something extra for me?” I’ve traveled 50,000 miles, more than two years and through 30+ countries and never had to bribe anyone, save the postal customs worker in Dar es Salaam, but this was the first time I had everything I needed in my hand yet NOW the officer asked for “something for me.” A little baksheesh… which loosely translated means “a tip.” I was a bit confused and leaving my bike in this desolate concrete block of a warehouse with its key, I didn’t know what to do. I threw him the equivalent of my change — a couple bucks and went on my way.
Though I was feeling cleaner and somewhat on the road to releasing Doc from customs, I still was exhausted, friction from clothing on the burn on my leg nagged me and I was feeling a big shaggy — I hadn’t had a haircut nor a good shave since hanging in Arusha, Tanzania many months ago. So I found a local barber, got cleaned up and spent the rest of the day and night sleeping. My first sleep in four nights.
A shave and a haircut. After the deserts of Ethiopia, Sudan and the crossing of Lake Nassar, it’s good to be feel human again.
Then the waiting game.
But I took advantage of down time in Aswan, with its rich Nubian history, beautiful setting on the Nile River, islands with traditional Nubian villages, scenic and peaceful felucca (sailboats) rides, visits to local temples and ruins and more. While Aswan is famour for many things including the end of the line for those massive Nile cruise ships that take tourists from Luxor, or even Cairo down the length of the Nile, but also for its rock and granite quarries. In fact, while most of the limestone used to build the Great Pyramids in Giza came from the Giza plateau, the hard granite rock used to build the inner chambers and tombs was brought to Giza by boat from the quarries in Aswan — five hundred miles upriver from Cairo. So while scurrying around Aswan I diverted to a little known area and far from the hustle and bustle of tourists and tour boats from Aswan to a rock quarry where sculptors have freely sculpted interesting forms, shapes and figures from rock right in the quarry. The result is an adhoc sculpture garden in granite that sits high above the Nile and looking over the Temple of Philae (Isis).
Delightfully happy in Aswan, Egypt.