Cairo to Alexandria, a false start… Mustafa to the rescue!
Awoke early in the Canadian Hostel dormitory in Cairo and went and had breakfast. We were to drive to Alexandria today and the plan was to get out of the city early to avoid traffic, but just 10 minutes into our journey we got stuck on a bridge in Cairo’s morning traffic.
We’d run out of diesel – the petrol station where the truck had been parked up didn’t have diesel and it was thought that we’d make it to another one as we left Cairo. Besides, there was the spare tank, so our drivers Nik and Luca set about switching to the diesel in the reserve tank, but the truck would not start – she could be temperamental!
They both had a good go at hand-pumping the fuel through inside the engine which meant jacking open the cab – it opens forward on these trucks. The problem was that it would not stay up and kept coming back down while they were trying the pump the fuel through manually. They then had to go in through a floor hatch in the seating area behind the cab.
We had a guy on board from the hostel (he was on board to get us out of the maze of roads around Cairo’s city centre) and him and Nik flagged down a taxi. The driver agreed to take them to find some diesel. Mustafa was a striking fellow with an awesome beard and he was a bit of a character.
In the meantime Luca managed to fix the cab jack and eventually pumped through enough fuel to get the truck started. The problem now was that Nik hadn’t returned, and for me the wait was a bit of a problem as I was desparate for a pee!
By now we had been there for a while and this had attracted the attention of the traffic police, and a policeman had come to investigate. He offered to let me use the toilet at his police station, and walked me over to their compound. The only thing was that it was actually across the main road that ran one level below us – it was rather funny (and a little scary) as he had to stop the traffic to get me across one of Cairo’s main routes out of the city to the compound, and all because I needed a pee!
It was very good of him to allow me inside the station… an unusual part of Cairo I’d usually hope not to see. A small concrete building, roughly build with one main room, kitchen area and toilet – I was offered food and water, but having seen the kitchen and toilet politely declined.
This next bit has no real relevance to this tale, but I feel I need to share it because it was so random. When I got back to the truck an old man walked past with a plant sticking out of his nose – bizarre – if only I’d snapped that… that could have been a story all of it’s own!
Back to the point… Nik and Mustafa returned shortly after this strange incident and Mustafa led us to a diesel station. This was priceless as we witnessed a car being washed Egyptian-style… no driving through a car wash here, just cover it in foam and then rinse it off.
Mustafa kindly led us out of the city through the suburbs which are a strange mix of greenery, palm trees, housing blocks and occasionally some really rather grand houses in between. The blocks of flats were the most interesting, with goats, sheep, camels in the strangest of places, even inside on upper floors!
Here is another shot of one of Cairo’s finest… a little grainy due me setting ISO1600 on a bright sunny day – doh!
Arrived in Alexandria late afternoon. Alexandria was not actually on our itinerary, but we had some spare time. When we arrived though, we couldn’t find the hostel and so stopped in a car park close to the sea front whilst a call was made to the hotel owner. Up above us a man on a phone was waving frantically at us from a nearby top floor balcony – we’d unwittingly found it!