|Travel in a time of coronavirus
I started this blog as a celebration of travel and this crazy, fabulous planet, but with Covid-19 closing borders for months, possibly years, any new adventures are on hold for the foreseeable future. In the meantime I’ll be delving into my diaries and scanning my old travel slides to bring you some stories and photos from the past 25 years.
I went to Egypt in 1996 at the tail end of an overland trip which started five months earlier in the Czech Republic. To be honest, one of my main reasons for going was to escape the brutal Central European winter. The chance to explore a bit of the Middle East was a bonus.
First I meandered southwards through the Balkans, then through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories — which included a memorable Christmas in Bethlehem — before ending up in the stoner hangout of Dahab on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.
From there I headed inland and climbed Mt Sinai, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments, and had my senses assaulted by teeming, chaotic Cairo.
Egypt’s capital is so vast and crowded it’s said a million people with nowhere else to go have moved into the tombs of Cairo’s vast necropolis, the evocatively named City of the Dead. (The number is probably exaggerated but is gives you an idea of the sheer crowded-ness of Cairo.)
From Cairo I took an overnight train south to Aswan and had a leisurely three days on a felucca, a traditional sailing boat, drifting back down the Nile with stops along the way at some of the country’s ancient wonders.
While Egypt’s temples and pyramids and tombs are extraordinary and almost inconceivably ancient, that wasn’t what I enjoyed most. For me the highlight was the chance to witness Egyptians’ daily life, especially during the week I spent idling in Siwa, an oasis of date palms, salt lakes and mud brick homes deep in the Western Desert.
Like the other 1990s photos I’ve been posting lately these were taken on 35mm slide film then digitised on a cheap flatbed scanner. I haven’t been able to get the colours and sharpness quite right but I’m sure you’ll get the picture.