Journey to Nowhere
My time in Egypt had been, at times, somewhat amorphous. I was still trying to come to terms with everything I had lived in the West Bank, and was writing quite extensively on the subject. I was also preoccupied by what would await me in Sudan, and the feeling that I was taking a big step forward in reaching Kenya, really entering Africa, so to speak.
I had met some very interesting people in Egypt, and as a result had spent longer in fewer places, getting to know them better. This was great, but they were all the “big” places. I loved my time in Cairo, but I didn’t explore Egypt in the same way that I saw the smaller, rural communities of Syria, for example.
On my last day in Aswan, I went to the train station and caught the oldest, most decrepit looking train to wherever it was going. The old men on the plastic seats opposite me were surprised to see a foreigner on their daily service and asked where I was going. “Mo baref” I replied. I don’t know. And peu importe.
The train paused at various points along the desolate track, and people jumped out into the little villages that dotted the route. We eventually stopped somewhere. I don’t know where. Half an hour south of Aswan.
Children were coming out of school as I walked down the dirt streets that ran through the village, and I soon found myself with a gaggle of them around me, “what’s your name?” they repeated. I felt slightly embarrassed as the older folk of the village looked on, observing the scene. As I walked out into the desert, I was warned against going further, “police will shoot you” I was told.
Perhaps as testament to the aged looking telephone masts that lined the streets, Vodafone was the only encroachment of the West here. The Arabic version of their logo was emblazoned on the white walls of many of the houses.
A falafel vendor provided lunch at half the price of what I had hitherto paid. At 50 piastres (approximately 7 euro cents) this had to be my cheapest meal yet, and with none of the dishonesty of his counterparts in Aswan. This was the real Egypt.