Photography by El-Qamar
Cycling in Egypt has not really kicked in as a recreational activity, even with the rise in some professional cycling shops, it is still something in its infancy. Attempting in the wild and chaotic streets of Cairo and Giza is certainly a challenge best left to the boldest of the bold. But the further you get away from the centre it actually becomes better. Taking it to the next level and doing endurance and long distance cycling is certainly another story, and in on and by itself can be an exhilarating experience.
Recently I was lucky enough and got in touch with a Liechtensteinerin traveller, cyclist, and blogger, who spreads her time between Egypt and Liechtenstein, she will be sharing some of her earlier adventures in Egypt ever then next few guest posts, and hopefully some of her more recent ones when she gets the chance. You can find her bio and links to her German and English blogs right after the post.
The sun is rising from the sea, the air is still fresh and streets are empty. We are cycling out of Hurghada, up to the checkpoint and passing by the well-known junctions: Makadi, Soma Bay, and Safaga.
Since I’ve never been to Safaga, we ride through the long-drawn-out village and what belongs to it. Our saddles have become a cinema chair to watch the scenery: vegetable stalls and shops, in front of which men dressed in kaftans stand, walk, and read their newspapers; women dressed in black balancing their shopping on their heads, alternate with the typical local coffee shops, run-down schools and buildings. Garbage is everywhere and I remember Egyptians being excited about how clean Hurghada was. Europeans judge differently though.
We cycle on. The road leads us up and down through the foothills of the Red Sea Mountains, its usual golden-yellow colour has changed into a grey-black since we let Safaga behind us, instead. Like a dark grey stripe, the asphalt lays unrolled in front of us for many kilometres and gets lost somewhere in the shimmery horizon. The slopes offer us variety and motivation, and after having reached the peak with the tail wind, we we pedal even stronger, plunging down eagerly to surge with momentum through the valley and to climb the next ascent with less effort. The road is ours alone since we left Safaga.
“Isn’t it a bit dangerous?” was a justified question by friends whom I told about our plan. “No, it isn’t” was my answer, because a) I don’t go alone, b) we leave early in the morning and c) we have an escort vehicle.
Emad, our driver, goes along with us in a caring way. He stops at open spots, supplies us with cold water, takes pictures and unmistakably enjoys the air conditioning and the high-quality Hi-Fi of my cycling mate’s car.
Still cycling. The grey-black mountains have withdrawn; the well-known golden-yellow colour dominates. The scenery is monotonous; no hills, only gentle elevations. It is very hot and although I keep on drinking water, I never have to relieve myself (which was not a good indication as I had to learn three weeks later). I eat an apple, some date biscuits, some nuts. I can’t eat a lot, whereas my mate is continuously busy with eating.
The air is glistening in the heat. I can’t stop looking around, I take in the view of this strange, captivating scenery, which it still is for me despite having lived here for more than three years. My eyes wander towards the sparkling sea and I discover… cyclists?… people on two wheels?… mountain bikes?… I fear having a hallucination or seeing a Fata Morgana. I call attention to Michael and, yes, he sees them as well, they are real. We stop, shout and wave. They come towards us, mountain bikers from a hotel nearby biking with their guide. We are far more excited about seeing other bikers than they are; we don’t meet like-minded people as easily, they are rather exotic in and around Hurghada.
A short while later, the road merges into one lane only and the asphalt strap follows close to the sea and the fine sandy beach. Here and there people enjoy themselves with a bath in the sea. We continue cycling towards our destination and come closer to a transshipment point for phosphate. A huge phosphate cloud cloaks us. A cargo vessel is being loaded with phosphate and lorries loaded with the precious dust start their journey to Cairo. I can only imagine the conditions under which the workers do their labour here and that sooner or later, they all end up with a black lung.
It’s getting hotter, sweat and dust sticks to the face, arms, and legs. We continue cycling silently, every one of us being busy with his/her thoughts, impressions and sufferings. A short exchange of words cheers us up. The mountains and hills become more varied and I feel again this longing for mountain biking in the Red Sea Mountains one day in the future.
We pass by the mining company, which means only 15 km more to to go till El Quseir! I send an sms to the General Manager of the Hotel Mövenpick to announce our arrival. Shortly afterwards, we arrive at the hotel entrance and let Emad take another picture from us. Tired but proud and full of joy we stow away our bicycles and after a shower, mingle unobtrusively with the hotel guests. Moving between shower, beach, bathing, eating and swimming pool is almost a bit tiring, but we want to enjoy everything this beautiful hotel has to offer. Thank you Mr. Mehdy.
It is thanks to Michael that I could undertake this journey. At present, this trip is not recommendable for a single woman, yet together, further trips are possible. For me, this signifies a new quality of life.
Key data: 130km, 4 hours cycling, tons of water
El Qamar hails from one of the smallest countries in the world, Liechtenstein.
El-Qamar means “moon” in Arabic which is referred to as something noble, beautiful and precious. I like this name as a pseudonym for a blog from an Arabic speaking country.Biking, Cycling, Egypt, El Quseir, Featured, Hurghada, Liechtenstein, Mirage, Mountains, Red Sea, Safaga