||[Sep. 13th, 2005|09:18 pm]
Nile for a Smile
The route to Sohag took a bit longer than I had hoped for. My escort was an hour late in arriving at my hotel, and I was also starting to feel a little bit unwell (I suspect the pasta take away pot I had in Minya, it's spectre haunts me still...)|
Cycling through middle Egypt has been an interesting experience. Because of the recent security situation, the locals simply have not seen a live westerner for years. The reaction I have encountered has been warmth and curiosity. Many people calling out greetings from the roadside. A few even wanting to give me a drink from their stalls, and waving goodby when I head out. Some areas have been less warm with a few greetings, but most people seeming to ignore me as I go by (although this might actually be a morning thing, perhaps the sight is just too much to be dealing with at 6:30 in the morning, much as if you were to open your front door to see an Arab on a donkey go speeding by).
Sohag has quite a strong coptic Christian presence, and there were several churchs to be found along the way. In one village a man crossed himself and gave me a thumbs up, presumably to say thathe was a Christian (or that he assumed I was on, and that was fine with him - either way it was a nice gesture). The Coptic church uses a cross shaped like a sign post at a crossroads. I'll have to look up the symbolism at some point.
Muslim prayer towers were still very much the order of the day, near some towns the horizon appeared like looking out across a chess board..
Arriving in Sohag was a little daunting. Most police checkpoints I have encountered consist of a little police hut with a car, and two watch towers at either end of the stretch of road they are guarding.
Sohag followed this basic format, but with tire shredding stingers ready by the roadside, large bullet proof steel shields and a general air of alertness, with most police officers having extra ammo magazines taped to their AK-47's.
Despite this, my escort to my hotel consisted of two junior cops sharing a motorcycle (which took them 10 minutes to get started). They cheerfully rode alongside me through town until we eventually arrived at my hotel / bunker for the night (I had little joy trying to explain to them that it would be easier to follow them if they actually rode ahead of me).
Again, three policemen took station in the lobby, one or two accompanying me to the shops across the street so I could re-supply. Perhaps I was too tired from the road, but unlike Asyut, Sohag did seem to have a bad vibe to it and I was content to watch some old movies on the one English speaking station (I managed to stay awake for half of 'Jurassic park', and woke up for the second par of (the far superior) 'Conan The Destroyer'. Classic stuff.
Dawn saw me back on the road. This time heading for Quena, but actually hoping to make it all the way to Luxor, only 70km further south (the plan being to make it to Quena by midday, and then chill in a cafe until 4ish and do the rest of the road to Luxor.
My police escorts for the first stretch had a habit of zooming off into the distance and waiting for me to catch up with them at whatever roadside cafe they had decided required their investigating prowess. But it was little wonder, almost as soon as I left the city of Sohag the atmosphere changed with everyone smiling and waving at me from the roadside. It was like the first stretch of the trip all over again. Soon the police stopped escorting me altogether and I was back on my own.
I'll write up the rest of the route to Luxor tomorrow.
Goodnight for now.