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Agence Future Logo 1.1: Egypt - Cairo

When we saw how the bikes were unloaded from the plane in Cairo, only ten days after finding the shiny machines in Germany, our hearts shrank and our stomachs turned.

My orange machine was at the bottom of a pile of luggage. Bram's bike was on top of it and on top of that a series of suitcases was flung, the last of which was so heavy it had to be lifted by two men. Later it turned out my chainset had been bent and Bram's rear rack had also seen better days. We realised that unfortunately the bikes would have to go through worse things yet.

Bessaam had organised our arrival in Cairo well. We were met by a young Egyptian who helped us through customs and into a taxi in no time at all. Actually we had wanted to ride from the airport into Cairo but Bessaam had been against the idea.

Maya and Bessaam talk to the Kids of Gizeh "You do not realise how mad the traffic is in this town. I will not agree to you riding here. It just can't be done." So the bikes were put safely on the taxi's roof rack and we were driven into town through endless queues of cars, lorries and busses. We spotted a single cyclist who carried a huge crate of water and lost it somewhere in the middle of the chaos of Cairo's roads where lanes, lights and even policemen seem utterly meaningless.

Every single car in Cairo has dents and scratches and there must be an awful lot of minor accidents in this town every day, but the toughest aspect of driving culture in this town has to be the loud and incessant honking, tooting and hooting that every driver indulges in enthusiastically. Passing, being passed, turning, stopping, departing, every move is accompanied by manifold honking. Not exactly a friendly environment to cycle in, we do not even have a bell.

Recumbents in the back streets of Giza Despite all this, or maybe because of it, cycling the thirty kilometres from the town centre to the pyramids and back was a challenge Bram and Bessaam were keen to take on.

The pyramids, the objects of serious archaeological study, aesthetic admiration and wild speculation about connections between ancient Egypt and Mayan cultures through alien - not divine - intervention many millenniums ago, had to be the perfect location to take the bikes at the start of our journey.

Arriving in Gizeh the boys were a sight to behold, dirty like chimney sweepers with ash black rings around their eyes, darker than the Bedouin's kohl. Urban pollution takes on a new meaning when you can wipe it of your face. CO2 emission control is not as simple as it may seem in relatively manageable European cities. I make a note to find out about Egypt's position in international climate summits.

Negotiating our way through the entry But when wearrived there, the area around the pyramids was closed off for the millennium's last performance of Aïda. It looked like we wouldn't be getting in.

So we rode through the back streets, gazing at these architectural monuments as a backdrop to everyday life in Giza. Kids screamed and ran behind us, I took a backie with Bessaam and a small boy joined in the fun on the back of Bram's bike.

Maya und Besaam mit ihren Liegerädern vor den Pyramiden von Gizeh When we arrived where the Great Sphinx can be seen, the soldiers guarding the entrance were full of welcoming smiles. Bessaam started working on them, trying to convince them to let us in while I made a few exchanges about our 'agala' with the kids who had followed us now joined by many grown men. Bessaam used all his power of persuasion and his most convincing Arabic. One set of soldiers was untouched by his best efforts but at the next gate, a commander was charmed, probably by the bikes, and eventually we were let through.

The Street Machines had made it. They had proved their worth as time-travelling machines by taking us to the heart of the historical magic of ancient Egypt.

After looking back into time at the pyramids, it was high time for us to go forward and chase the future again. We were ready to meet the desert.

Read more on Agence Future's adventures in Egypt:

Index | 1.2: Egypt - The Sinai desert >>

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Last changed: May 20, 2012