bicycle travelling
preparing for 3onTour!
SYRIA, JORDAN, EGYPT: kilis - cairo

18. January 2003

SYRIA, JORDAN, EGYPT: kilis - cairo

5220 km, cairo (EGYPT)

-- this is just a small summary of the syria-to-cairo part our tour. some experiences i made during cycling the middle east. more stories and details in german --


route: nasib-aleppo-rasafhan-as suknah-palmyra-damaskus-border to jordan near bosra

three main differences to turkey i experienced first in syria: on the first three days staying i saw no dogs at all. well, to be correct: no dogs alive. beside the road there were plenty of them, most of them just 5 centimeter thick. and those living dogs we saw later on were very lazy one. nearly none of them started hunting us, most of them even did not get on their feet - just some weak barking from the distance. really disappointing!

and second: the size of villages or towns we entered by bike were easy to find out. it depends on the length of stinking rubbish and awful waste beside the road before you reach the town.

third: traffic begins to be 'real asia', like i know from india or china. 3 or 4 lanes on a normal 2-lane road, the horn becomes more important than the brakes and the traffic-amount is increasing.

sometimes we were invited to stay in homes of very friendly syrian families. just after aleppo we stayed on a samll farm of a big family. grandfather, grandmother, father and mother, sons and daughters, nephews and nieces... all living together. two brothers were teaching or studiying on university in aleppo, one teaching history in a school in saudi arabia. electricity was not existent, and all things have to be done manually. the grandfather seemed to be a funny guy. he drank his own, very strong tea and he smoked his own, very strong cigarettes. and when we the family, bine and i were eating from one plate, he has his own one. with a very hot soup and very special spices. though it was ramadan, they invited us for breakfast on the next day. just bine and me eating - all members of the family were justing sitting in front of us and staring. it was really embarassing...

sometimes the weather was not as i expected of a desert country. it was raining, windy and cold. especially in the night.

in rasafahan, a small ancient city in the middle of nowwhere. we thought we are the only one, but suddenly we saw a man with an umbrella for protecting against the sun in one hand and a plastic bag in his other hand. 'i am here since 10 o clock. we are the only one here', says the traveller from vietnam. and after a short pause: 'what time is now?'.

palmyra - the famous ancient city in the syrian desert - was nearly empty. no tourists. the ruins of palmyra show a little bit of the wealthiness this town must have had. an impressive column-lined street that was once the main artery of the town - just for representation! after cycling through the desert and small very poor villages this richness is really impressive. we met karin and peter from the netherlands there. a very nice and interesting couple who are also on a big worldtrip by bike ([=>http:\/\/])- maybe for many years. we met us in a restaurant and had for some hours a funny and interesting evening.

in the middle of nowwhere on a desert route between palmyra and damascus we had some problems with the police. we took some photos and after 15 minutes we were sitting in a civil-looking police station one km away from the road. when cycling there, bine was rewinding and removing her film from the camer. while i was talking to them about nothing, bine was able to put in a new film and push a view times the trigger. perfect. like a bond-girl! after writing down our personal datas, examination of our camera and our luggage we were allowed to continue our trip. 'welcome to syria!' the police waved us good bye.

to be honest - in damascus we made no really culural sightseeing. we visited just the omayyad mosque which impressed me very much. the rest of the 3 days we stayed there, we just enjoyed relaxing and eating a lot of felafel. as we left our hotel for leaving the town, the people of the opposite 24-hour-felafel-store, where i bought about 2-3 felafel a day, were waving goodbye. i think they lost one of their best customer...


route: highway to amman - desert highway to maan and aquaba

the dominating theme between bine and me when discussion comes to jordan: ramadan. and it was not easy for us. jordan people take the rules of ramadan much more rigorous than in syria, where we had no problems at all. drinking and eating was not allowed at all. during daytime we were forced to eat in our small, cold and dark hotel room at 'king ghazi hotel'. the opening times of shops and restaurants was very confusing and irregular. for weeks we were on the wrong places at the wrong time.

in amman i met my parents waltraut und lorenz from vienna. they made a 2-week organised tour from 'studiosus'. one day before they went to petra with studiosus, bine and i made an unplanned visit 2 days before our planned meeting - they were very surprised but also very happy! we then stayed one week together and made some tours by car to genezareth, jerash, dead sea (which was very funny and the landscape really fascinating!), madaba, petra and wadi rum. the week was very short of course, but it was very nice seeing my parents again!

it is worldfamous, very expensive and sometimes overcrowded and very touristic - petra! but it is really great. even the landscape is an attraction for its own and together with the buildungs of ancient city petra it is fascinating. the temples and other buildings of petra is totally carved from sandstone that takes on deep rusty hues.

wadi rum - a bicarre desert landscape where 'lawrence of arabia' was filmed - was also one of the highlights. we took a jeep-tour through the area of steep rocks, mountains and the vast desert in between.

because we knew many parts of the king highway by car and - to be honest - because we were not keen on having hazards with stone-throwing kids we took the desert highway to aquaba. we had our own lane, not too much traffic, a desert landscape around us and music in our ears.

though we had some heavy headind for 2 days on the way to aquaba, it made me really fun to get on the bike again, after a long pause in amman. as we were leaving the capital, the sun was shining and the blue sky was glaring! on these first kilometers on my bike again i felt free. for the first time since starting in vienna i felt a little bit like a globebiker. like a man, who is letting all places and borders behind and heading forward all the time. may the wind blow against me, may rain or snow come down the sky, may bad roads made me frustrated. i will be ready for it!

before leaving jordan we bine and i established a new worldrecord. not planned in the morning we managed the following things in just 3 hours: searching and cyling to egyptian consulate, applieng and getting the visa, searching and cyling to the ferry-office, buying two tickets for the ferry aquaba-nuweiba, shopping for the next 3 days, cying 10 km to the port, changing money again for the fucking port-tax, getting the port-tax-confirmation, fill in the exit-papers (where 'ENTRY' was written on the top of the forms, but nobody was interested eitherway), getting the exit-stamps, cycling to the ferry behind a minibus of a friendly man who managed to make the ferry waiting for us, control of all our papers again, entering the ferry and breathing a sigh of relief! in three hours!!! well, we maybe insulted the man at the entrance of the port-area who obviously wanted to check our tickets and passports (but we had no time while rushing behind the minivan); and we made a few hundred people waiting for us, mostly of them were standing on 3 levels at the back of the ship, looking down quietly and patient at 2 sweating but relieved cyclists...


route: ferry from aquaba to nuweiba (sinai) - suez - cairo

in the first three days of staying in egypt we just did the following: nothing! just lying in the sun, getting cooled in the red sea, doing some very good snorkeling or sleeping in our bambus hut just beside the ocean. it was very good.

from nuweiba we cycled up north-west to hhh, crossing sinai until we rached the suez-channel. the first about 100 km from nuweiba were really fascinating. cycling in a narrow, winding valley with some palms and some lonesome camels in the desert landscape. the road was officially closed because of heavy rainfall one month ago. but getting through by bike was not problem. just a few gravel and some sandy parts, but nearly no traffic at all! great clear but chilly nights in the desert.

when we reached the taba-suez road it was getting flat. but one frustrating phenomenon made our cycling life difficult and our minds clouded - HEADWINDS! it was nothing heroic or something adventorous cycling a flat, paved highway with about 10 km\/h. it takes about 5 hours for a car from nuweiba to cairo, we cycled 7 days! but we were keen on cyclign and proud of having cycled all the way. it was the first mentally difficult part of the tour and bine and i managed it very good.

one day before cairo we slept in a ambulance station on the highway. we wanted a place to pitch up our tent, and got an invitation for dinner and bed! 5 people, one driver, one ambulance man, one cook and two young soldiers attending their military service were doing the night service. we were eating, communicating even without english, making a small trip by ambulance vehicle, playing cards and having a good time. it was nearly impossible for us to get some sleep, because the noise of the radio set, the television set and the talking of the rescue team. nevertheless it was very nice and as we were leaving, we were invited to stay one more night or at least to come back again when cycling on to luxor. greeting to the rescue-team of highway cairo!

in cairo brigitte and alfred, the parents of bine, made a short one-week visit. we celebrated christmas together. we put up some fir-braces and candles from germany on the table in our hotel room (anglo swiss hotel), and arranged a few presents around. alfred was playing 'alle jahre wieder', a german christmas-folk-song. it was very nice. very different christmas for all of us!

together we made the 'usual sightseeing program'. we had a great view about the city and the pyramids of gizeh from the cairo tower, saw the tutchenamum sarkophag at the egyptian museum, we explored the fascinating streets of the great basar and - of course - visited the pyramids of gizeh. but which i enjoyed much was having excellent dinner together and sitting together in the hotelroom for hours talking. it was very nice and for bine it was quite difficult to say good bye to her parents again after 7 days.

silvester we 'celebrated' (well we had some very good dinner and one beer in the hotelroom later on) together with joerg alias bumbum from germany. he is on his way to capetown by bike ([=>http:\/\/\/bumbumbike]) and a real bike and travel freak!

after a few days another visit: christoph, my brother took a cheap flight with MALEV hungarian airlines and arrived in cairo at 4 o clock in the morning (about the same time he departures 10 days later). we relaxed together in dahab\/sinai. and had the best snorkeling of my life there. the water of red sea is clean and gleaming blue, the sun was shining and i saw colourful fish and corals. it was fascinating! hanging around with my brother was very good and knowing he remained like 'in the old days' makes me happy!

after days of talking, discussing, getting information and bad mood bine and i have worked out a new route. the planned route sudan-eritrea-djibouti-yemen-oman-pakistan... is not possible. also other routes, including ferries to oman etc. lead to nothing. we are planning now to cycle through egypt to sudan and further on to ethiopia. from addis abeba we want to take a plane to bombay\/india in order to cycle up north to nepal and tibet. we will see. inshallah!!

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