Egypt by bicycle
Updated: Mar 7
Not long after the fall of Mubarak and the ‘Arab Spring’ had died down myself Alan and the random Irishmen Dan all met in Cairo to cycle the Nile to Aswan together. For all of us it was the first dabble in cycle touring and why not start somewhere hot, chaotic and having just had a revolution. Landing in Cairo we quickly left the airport making our way out to the hotel somewhere in the very hectic Islamic Quarter.
Once we had ticked the local sites such as the pyramids it was time to ready the bikes and get on them and make our way south to Aswan and the Nile cataracts. Assembling bikes and packing panniers took a couple of days in the hotel basement before it was deemed we where ready to do battle with Cairos incredibly busy and dangerous roads. We where also leaving from almost the centre of the biggest and most chaotic city on the continent. Deciding to try and beat the traffic a call which did actually work, we left at about 5am in the morning on quiet roads. This also gained us some of the cooler hours of the day on what turned out to be the longest milage day in Egypt. Not wishing to warm up we seemed to make the first day of many the longest.
As we left the suburbs and outer areas around the city the traffic started to ease and we soon found our ourself trucking along at a good pace by the mighty Nile river. We also started to find that there was a police interest in our riding and throughout the trip we often had a police tail with armed officers in a pick up. Most of the time this was a nuisance but rather than it being the police being suspicious of our activities it was actually more that they where nervous for our safety as there have been incidents involving tourists in the past. However this didn't deter us from trying to give them the slip from time to time.
The days which followed where dotted with sections along the river then weaving back into the paddy fields and more rural areas making a nice change from the hectic main roads. Egyptians where always friendly and always had time to say hello. We certainly found that among Egyptians that the Arab Spring and revolution hadn’t amounted to the hopes and aspirations that went into the uprising. At the time the first democratically elected leader Morsi was in place but for many who had perhaps naively hoped things hadn’t suddenly been transformed into a Californian way of life. Morsi sadly was to be subsequently ousted along with democracy during a military coo and life is now probably pretty much as it was before the revolution.
Things got hotter as we reached Luxor the site of the Valley of the Kings which gave us an opportune time for a rest and look around the sites. The impressive temples of the area kept us busy for a couple of days before the final ride to Aswan was on. Things now took on a much more desert feel with dunes and desert opening up before us. A couple more days saw us crossing the Nile just before Aswan and then a long road followed the river into Aswan at the southern end of Egypt. Aswan sits just below the Niles cataracts an impressive body of water flowing out of Lake Aswan and Sudan through huge sand dunes and rocky formations. We took one of the local Feluca boats into the cataracts where I almost had an incident. The Nile river huge when looked at doesn’t appear to be flowing that quickly but I can certainly say it is. With the front of the boat pointing into the current I stripped and dived in off the front and by the time I came up I had been pushed under the boat, banging my head off the rudder at the back I popped up suddenly quite a way from the boat. Thankfully it turned and collected me.
As far as a bike ride goes this was a great journey the length of the country and being on a bike and traveling at a pace that allows you to interact with locals and stop and see what’s going on we got a great feel for Egypt. It's a hugely friendly country to travel in and very safe. For all we had a ton of gear with us for camping and cooking we didn’t camp once so my one tip would be to strip everything down to the bare minimum. As we did heading to Kenya we stripped most things down to just enough to fit in the rear panniers and got rid of the front panniers altogether.
By far the best way to see Egypt and for that matter many countries.