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They say the English invented bureaucracy, and Egyptians perfected it. Luckily, the latter are also extremely helpful, as the meander of government buildings and bureaus, translators and happy stampings are as complex as their ancient hieroglyphics… Thank Allah for fixers who literally hold your hand through the whole process, as us mere Westerners would never be able to climb that pyramid alone…

‘What’s South of the border of Egypt?’ The first of many great Emma quotes.

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Alexandria is a very impressive concrete jungle if I have ever seen one. Standing on the water front, the whole bay seems to be held back by tower blocks. No one hassles you, or the few chancers who do at least take ‘no thank you’ for an answer. Taxi drivers try and get dollars out of you rather than Egyptian pounds, and will have no remorse about charging five times the price. Thus you know that you know nothing.

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Few beggars and bikes, many cars and needles in gutters. Few tourists, cheap and delicious street food, generous smiles but no haggling prices, Egyptians are a proud nation. Our fixer Fathy studied political science before being conscripted to the special forces for three years. His analysis of Syria is a bloody stalemate fed by Russia and Libyans are simply dismissed as warring tribes; he says there will never be more than relatively non-violent uprisings in Egypt as most people would rather go about their every day lives than pick up arms.

We have four days to decipher this city, before learning how to drive by ear as Egyptians use their horns to greet each other, courteously let you cross the road or angrily try and move a donkey off the road. Four days before going down the Nile to Aswan, where a very enthusiastic overlanding community seems to think the road into the Sudan is now open, we may be among the first few to ever drive into the Sudan instead of taking the infamous ferry down Lake Nasser!

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From the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

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