Mediterranean Egypt


A view of the Eastern Bay of Alexandria taken from our hotel bedroom !


Alexandria and the Mediterranean
Could we leave Egypt by boat ? We had arrived in Alexandria in order to find out whether there was any way to leave Egypt by boat in case our Libyan visas never materialised. Grimaldi Lines in Italy run RO-RO ships that have cabins for 12 passengers between Alexandria and the Italian ports of Salerno and Savona further North. After having tried to get visas for more than a month by then, we were seriously looking into other options. Despite our the efforts of Kathleen's brother, who then had plenty of time as he was a former pilot with Sabena, the Belgian National airline gone bust, we had still not received anything. From one week to another, there were new conditions to be met. We were promised the visas for March 6th. On March 6th we were told we personally had to come to Belgium to sign our visa applications forms. We started to think that the Libyan authorities were playing games and would never grant us visas to visit their country. When Kathleen's brother all of a sudden was offered a job and had to leave Belgium in a matter of days, Christian's mother took over but, for the Libyan authorities in Brussels, we were back at square one. 


Unfinished holiday construction along the coast west of Alexandria runs for tens of km. Only the houses next to the road are finished. 


With nothing to do in Alexandria but wait, we decided to leave and head for the desert again. We headed west for the oasis city of Siwa some 500km away on smooth and empty desert roads. Meant to have remained unchanged for centuries or even millennia, we were a little disappointed to find small guesthouses and an internet cafe. The Siwa oasis has two huge lakes and an old, unused, citadel made with mud bricks that becomes smaller every time it rains hard which, luckily, does not happen very often in this part of the world. The average rainfall is less than 50 mm per year. 


The Siwa oasis, Western Egypt


A lucky picture : the intended subject was the citadel only. As I pressed the shutter button this peasant that I had not heard passed by !


At that stage, our morale was pretty low and we would have accepted any way out of the country. The first one that came along would be the best. We rang the shipping company, Grimaldi's arrogant agent in Alexandria called Marina and we were told our boat on March 23rd had been cancelled. The next one was on April 1st but, of course, he had not bothered to ask whether there were any vacancies on the 12 cabins on board. On March 11, we were told our Arabic translations were not valid and told to come back with other translations. We were then promised the visas for March 18th. On March 18th we were told everything was OK but please come and pick up the visas next Wednesday... By then we were left with 2 options to go home : to get these Libyan visas or drive home the way we came to Egypt : through Jordan, Syria and Turkey. 2500 kilometers of roads we had already seen and 7 border crossings before reaching political Europe in Greece. We stayed only one day and left the oasis to go out and camp in the desert. No people, no mosquitoes ! "L'enfer c'est les autres."


Sunset from our desert camp, 170 km from Siwa and 130 km from the coastal city of Marsa Matruh


We are not alone in the desert : this species of snails can survive in extreme aridity (left), our desert camp and the first use of our solar shower : a real luxury !


Nothing else to do than wait !


Our next experience was a sobering one : on our way back to Alexandria, we stopped at El-Alamain and visited the war graves and the military museum. Some 80,000 soldiers are meant to have lost their lives in this battlefield between 1941 and 1943.


The battlefield of El-Alamein where Montgomery pushed back Rommel's Afrika Korps


Rommel's famous binoculars and field glasses (left), a Libyan banknote featuring the badies of the times ("due popoli, una guerra or 2 people, 1 war") (centre) and a badly damaged Spitfire.


The German war graves are organised by Laender. One of them, however, is Preussen.


The Commonweatlh war graves at El- Alamein. 


On Wednesday March 20th, we finally got the good news by email from Belgium. Christian's mother had picked up the passports from the Libyan embassy in Brussels and was rushing to DHL to have them sent over. That was yesterday. We are currently at Toyota in Alexandria where we are having Troopie's front leaves bent for a better ride in the Libyan desert ! We have ordered sand ladders in town, have photocopied books with GPS waypoints and have met a French desert enthusiast who accepted to sell us his GPS ! Tomorrow, if the passports have arrived, we head off to the border ! We haven't dealt with the Chinese bureaucracy to fail with the Libyans !


On the road again : the right way !


A seafood restaurants display in Alexandria


We are happy again !

Here are our extra pages on Egypt II :

Luxor : treasures & tourists Cairo : pyramids & traffic Alexandria & the coast


Egypt, part I Back to Trip page Heading to Libya