Log #25n Egypt, Port Said & Cairo

September 2, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 25 EMYR, The Logs

Sept. 2, 2002
Ormos Naousis, Nisos Paros, Greece

Hi Folks,

We’re at anchor in this lovely bay (ormos in Greek) across from the delightful town of Naousis here on the island (nisos in Greek) of Paros, in the middle of the Cyclades. The town, about a mile away, seems to have all the amenities, including fuel, groceries, hardware shops (no chandleries though), lots of restaurants and tavernas, internet access (I hope) and a video store where I can rent DVD movies. Where we are anchored there is a lovely sand beach frequented by nudists and gays, and with a half hourly ferry service to town.

Our only problem is that we have acquired a MOUSE! It must have come on board when we were at Ormos Pningo on Nisos Kinaros three nights ago. We were at anchor, with long lines to rocks ashore. The mouse must have scurried across the shore lines, even though they were over 20 metres in length, and most of the time were sagging into the water. We have seen its droppings, and have had bread bags chewed, a cereal box chewed, and yesterday a carton of milk was chewed at the base and leaked out of the compartment and under a seat cushion before flowing onto our carpeted cabin sole. We have a couple of “sticky traps” and a traditional mouse trap, but no luck yet. We hope it won’t get into more serious chewing of wires, or through hull hoses; then we would be in big trouble.

Other than that, all is well. I hope to be able to send this this morning from town, and have the next one ready to send tomorrow or next day.

I have had reports that the format in which some of you receive my E-mail is complicated with the lines scrolling out, or other formatting problems. I’m not sure what causes that, as I am using the same formatting of Microsoft Word, fully formatted, cut and pasted onto a floppy disc, then cut and pasted onto AOL write screens on the internet. Unfortunately I cannot hook my laptop up to network connections at internet cafes, as my network port is not operational. So, here in Greece, I will have to continue to use cut and paste methods from internet cafes. Some have reported fixing the problem by downloading with a different program. Any suggestions?

This Log #25n gets us down to Egypt and the pyramids. Perhaps if we stay here on Paros for a few days I may get caught up on my logs, but it will be a lot of reading for you folks as well.

All the best,

Log #25n Egypt, Port Said & Cairo

Emborios, Nisos Kalymnos
Aug. 25, 2002

After handing in our Israeli shore passes and retrieving our passports, we left Ashkelon at 0536, on June 8th, a few minutes after sunrise, for the 130 mile uneventful passage to Port Said. We were fortunate enough to be able to sail more than half the distance, arriving at our rendezvous point off Port Said at 0520 next day where we waited until all boats were accounted for, then we proceeded in line into port. We did it this way as otherwise the pilot boats would have been all over us telling us we had to hire them individually for passage into the canal system. We ignored their overtures and just followed in line into Arsenal Basin beside the Suez Canal Authority offices on the west or starboard (African) side of the canal. The waterway was very busy with small craft, pilot boats, and ferries crisscrossing the choppy waters. Normally, yachts transiting the canal would go to the Port Fouad Yacht Centre on the port side to await the necessary clearances and payments. It was 0850 by the time we were moored bows to in front of the Suez Canal Authority docks, and handing in our paper work (2 copies of the crew list, our passports and $56.00 US for boat and two crew). We were at our furthest point in the Mediterranean here in Egypt at 31ْ 15.5’N, 032ْ 18.3’E.

I do not recall the fees for transiting the Canal, but yachts must have an agent to facilitate all the paper work, pilots’ fees, and other expenses. Hasan and the rally used the services of Felix Maritime Agency for our arrangements at Port Said and tours to Cairo. This agency specializes in yacht transits, and it is mentioned in the Imray Mediterranean Almanac. We were pleased with his services and have no problem suggesting others considering the Suez Canal contact them. They may be contacted by E-mail at flx@intouch.com, telephone 20/66/333132-337165, or snail mail at P.O. Box 618 – Port Said Egypt.

The Canal itself is 190 km long, 300 m. wide, with a depth of 20 m. extending from Port Said to Suez (about twice the length of the Panama Canal). There is a marina at Ismalia, about half way down, where yachts can overnight or stay for a few days during the transit. The largest ships allowed to pass through the canal may have a beam of up to 210 feet (64 meters) wide and a draught (below-water depth) of up to 53 feet (16 meters). There are four passing points where convoys of ships going opposite directions can safely pass.  Each day two convoys from south to north and one convoy from north to south sail through the canal, with a maximum total of 80 vessels a day. Yearly traffic numbers about 20,000 ships carrying between 300 million and 400 million net tons. Tankers and cargo ships account for nearly all canal traffic, but occasionally passenger liners and warships use the waterway. Northbound cargo is chiefly oil from the Persian Gulf headed for Western Europe. Southbound cargo consists mainly of manufactured goods and grain from Europe and North America destined for the Far East and southern Asia. Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels, including yachts.

We had the first day free until the evening, and so decided to venture into the city to savour Port Said. It was dusty, dirty, run down, traffic all over, including donkey drawn carts. We had to watch where we were stepping to avoid piles of manure, rubble from derelict or uncompleted buildings, and broken pavement. Shops had their wares all over the sidewalks; cars and donkey carts were parked any which way; and construction or demolition projects created obstacle courses. We had to fend off persistent offers to enter shops or engage in unsolicited conversations that would lead to unwanted help that was hard to shake off. We had not encountered such persistent pestering since Tunisia a year ago. As it was, one individual latched on to us trying to direct us to various shops, getting small loaves of bread for us, and who knows what else he would have led us into. It is hard to shake these types without creating a scene and telling them to get out of our faces, that we need no assistance and leave us alone! It was not a comfortable wander around that part of the city in late afternoon. We were reluctant to stop to look at anything as we would be accosted by one of these persistent louts. Welcome to the third world!

Small world – on returning to the gate at the docks we met Rudy, a Canadian from one of the clubs at  Bluffers Park in Scarborough whom we met last winter in Kemer. His yacht, Zug Vogel, was over at the Port Faoud Yacht Centre. He and Irmgard had been on the EMYR a previous year, and so were invited to the rally dinner after we returned from Cairo. Back on board we got ready for a cocktail party hosted by the two Turkish Coast Guard boats that had accompanied the rally. As it was a hot evening, I decided to be conventional (for Egypt) and wore my djebila (sp?), a gold Tunisian loose-fitting lace trimmed robe. It was comfortable and it was only the second time I had worn it. We went to the docks in two small ferry boats, as the Coast Guard boats were moored a mile or so down stream of our location. We had a tour of these boats when we were in Lebanon and had developed a friendly rapport with the officers and sailors. We enjoyed drinking their booze and munching their hors d’ oeuvres. Thanks again Turkish Coast Guard.

Next day we were off for a two day trip to Cairo. (Cost was only $85.00 US per person for the bus, guide, all meals, and overnight in a Cairo hotel resort) We waited a half hour on the bus before leaving as our armed escort had to be arranged. Off we went with panel trucks of armed soldiers ahead and behind our two buses, using their sirens to get through the city onto the open highway without stopping. The Coast Guard personnel posted 24 hour guards on the docks to ensure the security of our boats while we were away. Off across more desert, southwest we went – barren, dry, monochrome, sandy brown terrain broken by the occasional industry or military complex off the highway.

As we approached the Nile delta, on the outskirts of Cairo we noticed many unfinished buildings in which the bottom floors were inhabited, but the few upper floors in a state of incomplete construction, most buildings having steel rebar protruding above. Forget about urban planning or landscaping – these buildings (from duplexes to four and five story “apartment” blocks) were just put up any which way with dirt paths or dirt roads fringed with dry dusty open fields all around. Our guide indicated the Egyptian form of capitalism was alive and well as the farmers would start these buildings for themselves and their families, then as they acquired more money would add to the structure as they could. Over 90 % of these “suburban” dwellings were in such incomplete states, the steel rods reaching forlornly to the sky, without hope for completion.

The traffic in Cairo was chaotic! Cairo is such a magnet for tourists and workers that the population increases daily from 11,000,000 to 15,000,000. We were well sheltered from the hectic traffic in our air conditioned bus. On the southwest side of Cairo we first stopped at the great Pyramids of Giza, built for the Pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, which date from the 4th Dynasty, about 2613 to 2494 BC. They were impressive! We were able to enter, crouched down, one of the passageways into the pharaoh’s crypt. We entered at ground level and went downwards past one set of vaults, not open to the public, and then further onto the main vault. There was nothing in this large vault (approximately 40m long, 20m wide and 20 m high) except on one wall the inscription of its first discovery in 1898. This was the great pyramid of Khufu which covers 13 acres, and rises to the height of 481 feet (or 147 metres). Some experts estimate that more than 2 million stones were placed by 100,000 men working for 20 years to build the Great Pyramid alone. Some say they were built by slave labour, others, including our Egyptian guide, said they were built by peasants happy to contribute their labour to the sun god, the pharaoh.

From the plateau of the pyramids we were able to see on one side the outskirts of Cairo, as Giza is basically a suburb of the city. On the other side stretched the undulating dunes of the desert. Nestled below the three pyramids was the Sphinx, bearing the head of Khafre, eyes wide open, seeing all in his serenity, but mounted on the body of a lion symbolizing courage. The sacrificial altar between the paws was a later addition of the Roman era. The body is 172 feet (52.4m) and the top of the head has a height of 66 feet (20 m).

Back in Cairo we visited a papyrus museum to see how the early papyrus scrolls were made, written and painted upon. After that back to the 21st century to a McDonalds, Colonel Saunders, and Pizza Hut complex for lunch before going to the Egyptian Museum.

Magnificent! For me the most impressive aspect was the Tutankhamen Gallery. Tutankhamen was actually one of the lesser rulers in ancient Egypt, but the discovery of his tomb, intact, in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings north of Luxor was a great archeological find. Below is an excerpt from Compton’s Encyclopedia:

TUTANKHAMEN  (ruled 1361-52 BC). He was only about 18 years old when he died, and as a pharaoh of Egypt he had no great claim to fame. Tutankhamen (originally Tutankhaten) owes his place in history mostly to the discovery of his tomb–completely intact and not violated by grave robbers–in 1922. The remarkable artifacts from the tomb, including the beautiful golden mask, are on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

There were posters in the museum showing the original layout of the tomb, in three chambers, with pictures and photographs showing the many artifacts positioned as they were found. The museum then had all these original artifacts properly assembled and displayed with commentaries in several languages including English. Of course the most dramatic display was of the golden death mask that adorned one of his inner sarcophagi, which rivals the bust of Nefertiti (which we also saw) as a popular image of ancient Egypt. If a lesser king had all this buried with him, what great treasures have already been lost to mankind from the grave robbers of the greater pharaohs?

Other areas of the museum are mentioned in the write up pasted at the end of this log from the rally bible.

As a “busman’s holiday”, we all then went for a brief but enjoyable tranquil ride on feluccas, sailing a mile up and back down the Nile in the centre of Cairo. The vessels were lateen rigged catboats, surprisingly responsive, and engineless. As the current runs south to north and the prevailing wind blows from the north, they could make efficient passages either way, hugging the shoreline for any counter current sailing south with the wind, and tacking back and forth midstream with the current when going northward. The grizzled old man and his young crew handled the ancient craft slowly but efficiently.

Then off we went to a luxurious resort hotel outside of Cairo to get to our rooms and get ready for our rally dinner at a tented Egyptian restaurant. We were feted by a musical group as we got off the buses and led into the restaurant grounds to a large eating tent with stage and area for a floor show. The couple of children with the group were happy to be led around the area on a pony. The meal was a lavish buffet of eastern foods. The entertainment included another Whirling Dervish, except this one was more the showman, rather than the ascetic, with his multicoloured capes that he swirled in spiraling patterns. As he whirled he balanced coloured rings to mystify his audience, and had members of the audience crouch around his legs as he whirled his felt red and green skirts over them like a circular tent. The next contrasting act was an Egyptian belly dancer who undulated her sinuous body around the diners and got several of us up trying her gyrations.

As part of the presentations, Judy and I gave to Michael and Britta of Laudance their rally plaques. They would be leaving the rally, Michael and his crew Hawthorne heading straight back from Port Said to Kemer where they were to leave the boat, and Britta flying direct from Cairo to Canada to undergo major surgery. Our best wishes, hopes, and prayers are with you Britta.

Next day we were on the buses again, but went to Ismalia first to see the yacht marina there. We had a chance to talk with a few yachties who were in process of transiting the canal. They encountered no great problems. Then we returned to Port Said to get ready to leave next day for Herzliya, the last port of the rally.


8/       Port Said, Egypt

Arrive – Sun. 09 June (am)                  Depart – Wed. 12 June (am)

Port Said, located at the north end of the Suez Canal, provides a safe location to leave the yachts for an overnight trip to Cairo and the pyramids. Expect considerable shipping at this, the entrance to a major world waterway.

Cairo, located on the right bank (east side) of the Nile above the delta, was not settled until the 7th century AD. The present city, founded in 968 AD by the Fatimids, was originally called El Qahira (The Victorious) and subsequently altered to Cairo. In the 12th century the great Muslim ruler Saladin built a citadel at Cairo and began to wall in the quarters of the many different peoples who had settled there. The city grew and prospered. In the later Middle Ages it became the center of trade between Europe and the East and one of the chief seats of Muslim culture. By about 1340 nearly 500,000 people lived in an area five times larger than the original Fatimid walled city. Cairo had become greater than any city in Africa, Europe, or Asia Minor. In 1517 it fell to the Turks, who reduced it to a provincial capital. In 1798 it was seized by Napoleon, but British and Turkish forces drove out the French three years later and the city was handed back to the Turks. The British, however, retained special interests in Cairo. A modern European city grew up in the 19th century between the Oriental quarters and the river.

On the overnight tour of Cairo, be prepared for the hurly burly and cacophony of the congested but sprawling city. We will see the major sights of the city, old and new, and the Pyramids. The world famous Egyptian Museum will be worth every minute we can spend in it. Ten highlights of its galleries mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide are:

1/ Tutankhamun Galleries        4/ Graeco-Roman Mummies    7/ Pharaonic Technology

2/ Royal Mummy Room                      5/ Royal Tombs of Tanis         8/ Yuya and Thuyu Rooms

3/Akhenaten Room                  6/ Old Kingdom Rooms                       9/ Ancient Egyptian Jewellery

10/ Animal Mummies

We also will be favoured with a sunset felucca trip down the Nile to ease the strain of the sensory overload of Cairo.

Our return to Port Said will allow time for an evening out, individually or as a group.