Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 13 – The Delta

I feel a little guilty, but I was not really impressed with Alexandria. Egyptians think it is their most beautiful city, and the setting along the Mediterranean is indeed magnificent. However, the waterfront is “choked” by old and decaying high-rise buildings, set way too close together which accounts for very dark streets and alleys. My guess is that development went nuts in the 60’s, with everyone wanting a condo near the ocean, and lack of good planning ended creating an overcrowded beach front (reminds of Valparaiso in Chile, which suffers with the same ailment).

The drive south through the Delta was not quite what I had in mind. First, the morning was very, very foggy, so there was little to see. In fact, I got turned around and went good 20 km in the wrong direction before I was able to turn around. Each country has its own peculiarities with respect to the flow of traffic, and Egypt is big into sending you one way, and then suddenly expect you to make a U turn to head in exactly the opposite way. My problem is that I don’t read Arabic street signs, so I have to wait for the odd sign in Roman script to check if I am going on the right direction. Makes for very interesting detours.

Once the fog lifted I saw I was crossing a pretty, bountiful agricultural area. I stopped a couple of times, but there were no real roads away from the main highway, and the few I saw went into more of those unsmiling ag towns like I had seen in el-Faiyum.

There were plenty of vehicles on the road, and I saw a couple of rather gruesome accidents. Unfortunately Egyptians are not good enough drivers to weave at high speeds through heavily loaded trucks. But since they believe they are very good they speed up, straddle lanes, squeeze between trucks and cars, and every single car is scratched and dented. I have to be very careful not to get my car scratched.

Of course I saw many canals in my travels, and twice crossed distributary channels of the Nile, so I can be thrilled by the fact that I am crossing the delta of the Nile. One interesting site are the pigeon coops, which rise 15 feet into the air, like thumbs, and are thus easily visible across the flat landscape. Egyptians breed pigeons for tow reasons. One, as food. Two, for the guano (and hence the need for pigeon coops). Of course the pigeons poop all over the fields during the day, thus providing random applications of fertilizers, but all the night poop accumulates at the bottom of the coop, where every so often it can be collected to be used as fertilizer.

I finally made it to Cairo, where I had to struggle to find my way. I do have a map, and given enough time I could read it, but with all the crazy drivers here there is never a moment or place to stop and look at the map. Instead I had to rely on instinct and recollection of the way I went before, which takes a little longer but is almost as good as map reading.

So I am back in my comfortable suite at the Scout Center, writing my notes while I look at the TV and sip apple soda. It is getting dark out there, so I think I should go out to dinner. We will see what tomorrow brings.

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