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Into Africa

By Mike Swarbrick


We wearily arrived at the Cairo Airport around 3:00 a.m. on August 31st to find that the Egyptian government press centre neglected to forward our pre-arranged documentation with the official that had been sent to meet us. This resulted in customs officials closely inspecting and holding most of our data transmission equipment.

Ben was on their doorstep within hours to facilitate the correction of their oversight.

It is very much a police state here with well armed men just about everywhere. The control on the media that they try to maintain is blatantly obvious, even the internet café’s are obliged by law to secure a clients name and phone number prior to allowing access to the internet. The “absence regulation” notice posted in my hotel room states that all room keys must be surrendered to the front desk prior to leaving the building so that authorities have full access to rooms in your absence. It is apparent that they do not require my key.

I just returned from grabbing a quick early morning coffee to find the hotel desk clerk rummaging through my room. Minutes earlier he and I had exchanged greetings in the lobby. He must have thought that I would linger over breakfast and chose this moment to conduct his search. Nothing seems to be missing, although 100.00 U.S. was displaced in my day pack..

 I truly hope to have no further reports on this Agatha Christie / Indianna Jones type of intrigue.

Welcome to Cairo Mr. Jones! “I was just checking to see that everything was working well in your room sir.” (Uh huh!? I bet you say that to all your guests).

 The general population and service industry employees that I have met to date have all been polite, warm and friendly individuals; even when caught red handed in your room. The well armed police on most street corners have thus far responded favourably to my good natured greetings. I find this rather impressive in a noisy, grimy, tightly compressed third world city of twenty million people where the average August / September high temperature is a stifling 34 degrees Celsius. Personally I find this kind of climate enjoyable only when I can hang my hat at the beach for the day. Here, no-one can go swimming. It has been reported that during the middle ages, the Nile was home to some 36,000 boats. Today it is unfortunately not only home to quite a lot of refuse but also to an infestation of shistosomiasis, a notorious minute worm that has kept even the locals from swimming for at least a dozen years now. These “bugs” can breed in the blood vessels of the abdomen and liver, the main symptom being blood in the urine. The same old Egyptian gentleman who reminded me of these little parasites assures me though that the fish are good to eat! (Darn, I left my fishing rod at home).

At 6,695 Km. the Nile is the world’s longest river and despite its modern decline - as it was in the beginning - it is still the sustenance of almost all life in Egypt. Although the Nile Valley and its Delta represents just four percent of Egypt’s surface area, it is home to about 95 percent of the country’s population. For over 5,000 years it has been the gateway that has brought people and goods forth and back in this mostly desert world. With its Northern flow and prevailing winds toward the South, it made regular two way travel possible without benefit of motor. Much easier than desert travel, it was indeed the first and largest wireless broadband information superhighway.

 Today, (with government approval?), Ben, Shaunna, Khairoon and I will visit the Al Azhar Mosque, one of the most significant Islamic places of worship in this ancient city. It is also home to what is thought to be, the oldest university in the world.

 I’d best grab a little breakfast now. Perhaps I’ll leave my alarm clock on the door handle.

 Ma’s salaama! (goodbye) for now.

 Mike Swarbrick

 O.K… Play it again Sam…


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All content copyright 2006 by: Mike Swarbrick