Getting A Motorcycle Out of Customs In Aswan Egypt

Things went okay for me today. I went to the traffic police with the letter from customs, paid a couple bucks and witnessed some first class rubber-stamping. The old guy in the cubby hole surrounded by hundreds of Egyptian license plates took another couple bucks from me and set aside some motorcycle plates. These he’d give me once I had the engineer verify my vehicle chassis and engine number, purchased insurance and received the okay from the traffic police bigwigs – in side the main building.

After this ordeal, which wasn’t so bad, my taxi driver took me to yet another locale where we would pick up the traffic police engineer and take him to the High Dam at the port so he could verify the motorcycle chassis and engine numbers. We roll into a what looks like a junkyard, full of vehicles, many smashed or totaled and a small canopy where three uniformed men sit with cell phones, calculators and clipboards. There’s a line up of cars and a couple guys in oil-stained overalls climbing into engine compartments or crawling under cars. These are the engineers. And not only must I get my vehicle VIN #’s verified, but every year each vehicle registered in Egypt must get inspected. Not only must the vehicles have correct engine/chassis number, but their lights all must work, they should have an emergency warning sign should they get stock on the side of the road and a fire extinguisher. Motorcycles don’t need these things.

The uniformed guys asked me to sit down and offered me a glass of delicious tea. But I’ve often wondered about the tea thing here in most of Africa. Even though many of these countries I’ve visited were once British colonies, there is a custom to always serve tea in a clear glass — kinda like a juice glass. Not that I’m expected high tea or fine china. No. It’s just that when they poor the tea it’s so damn hot it’s impossible to hold that glass until it cools. Then again, maybe that’s the point. If you can’t hold it, it’s to hot to drink. One thing’s for sure, they NEVER put milk in the tea. Now that’s the ‘proper’ way to enjoy tea.

After our engineer is freed up to join me and my taxi driver, we head to the High Dam where in a dark corner of this tattered warehouse Doc since covered in dust and cobwebs. I’m thankful that I’m carrying a small LED flashlight as it would’ve been impossible for my engineer to see the chassis number. When enquiring about the engine number, I told him there’s only a chassis number. Not satisfied to just verify the the number from the VIN plate, he needs to take an etching from where it’s stamped into the frame. Using a slightly carbonized coated and tacky paper about 2 x 5″ he sticks it to the frame and with his pencil scratches over the number thereby getting a barely legible imprint of my VIN#.

We hope in the cab and head back to the inspection yard and then to the traffic police station. Yet nothing can be done until I get insurance. Once again, the insurance office is closed and I must wait.

Feluccas sail gracefully on the River Nile in Aswan, Egypt

IMG_6998 (1).jpg
My captain Ahmed showed skill and stamina in tacking up river from


Very even keel WorldRider!
So since Doc is couped up in some customs holding tank, I figured I could pilot this Felucca down river a bit. That’s one big rudder!



The little girl and her recently Henna tattooed hand and arm. The decorations are in preparation for the wedding that evening.




Traditional Nubian house and donkey cart.



Traditional Nubian homes on Sehel Island which lies about 4km north downriver from Aswan.


Amu and I reflect on the Nubian problem caused by the creation of Lake Nassar.

So it seems like a good afternoon to take a boat ride. At the Harthor hotel where my $8 room and all my goodies are secured I met another American who I share a ride down the Nile and visit a few islands and traditional Nubian villages. As is the custom we hire a guide and his mentor, Amu. With skin wrinkled from years working the fields in the sun, he was seventy-nine years old, spoke a handful of English words and his voice was deeply resonated but would increase pitch on seeming random words. We wandered this small island where that evening a Nubian wedding would take place. The only time African men are responsible for cooking a meal seems to be on a wedding day. The dry desert landscape of this island where little greenery is present seems an odd home for herders and farmers. Women gather at the riverside and gather water and do laundry while others prepare for the festivities. Nubian people don’t issue wedding invitations. This would be considered rude, I’m told. Instead the groom is responsible for personally visiting the families of those to be invited and making the invitation in person. How many people attending tonight’s wedding? There will be more than five-hundred. That’s a lot of people to invite, I muse. Amu explains that sometimes a visit to a large family can account for ten or twenty invites. In other words, a lot of birds withe one stone, but notwithstanding, it’s an arduous task that would take weeks roaming the countryside to personally invite your guests. Honorable and cool.

Our felucca captain had an easy job navigating the good sized boat with a massive sail down river with the wind, but the real test of these pilots is upriver tacking. I’d heard stories where the masts of some of these tall staffs of woods breaking or causing serious damage. There are hundreds of these boats and brokers and ropers wander up and down the main drag in Aswan looking for customers. In the many days I stayed in Aswan, I can’t imagine any day not getting approached at least a dozen times. This gets annoying and for awhile I had it my mind that there was no way I was going to hop on this tourist bandwagon. Thanks to my hotel mate, I pushed aside my prejudice and attitude and took what turned out to be the likely high-point of my stay in Aswan. It’s very peaceful and the time with the Nubian people on Sehel and Elephantine Islands was well spent.

Now if I only could get on that motorcycle — and ride!

6 replies
  1. SteveRed
    SteveRed says:

    Hey Allan, SteveRed here from the ADV site. Just wanted to see how you were progressing mate. Hope all is well and Doc is holding up. If you ever need anything and I can help from Australia, just let me know. Still a great read!

  2. WorldRider
    WorldRider says:

    Hey My Mate! Great to see you on this side of the net… Yeah. Progressing nicely and making things happen. Catching up as you can tell. Been so long I gotta put these notes to bed! Thanks for the offer and I’m still curious about those bladders…? do you use them?

  3. caromia
    caromia says:

    I LOVE your blog – the pictures are amazing, goregous, mind blowing…
    and your travels always fascinating.
    I have turned some friends on to this and they too
    are enjoying, vacarously, the travels of a fellow sagittarian of wanderlust!
    joy shipmate joy!

  4. says:

    Hey Allan…
    Awesome work as always. You have a particular knack for capturing great faces!
    Thanks again for having us along.

  5. WorldRider
    WorldRider says:

    Carolyn my wise friend and sage, thanks for tuning in! So glad you’re enjoying the ride. Many journeys, many rivers, many bridges… let’s go!

  6. WorldRider
    WorldRider says:

    cameron – hey thanks; there’s nothing more compelling to capture through the lens of my camera than the people and faces of Africa and the Middle East. Glad you’re still riding along!


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