November 20. All our presidents are underground.

The jagged contours of the mountainous Egyptian coastline reflect the bright sunlight that is waking me up. I am one of the many passengers that lie scattered on the carpet floor of the bar in hull of the vessel. There is no passport in my pocket, just a piece of paper that says I have passport number one. Of course I am worried. This is the last thing that can go wrong and there is bartalk law that says it will go wrong. But it doesn’t. I get off the ship and have a friendly smile stamped in my memory by the immigration official. Then I walk off and get a ride in a red jeep to the center of Nueba. There is a roadside restaurant with Korean letters on it and I am curious enough to enter it. It turns out there is no Korean there, they live in Cairo. In broken English, I order a hamburger which I eat on the terrace, listening to powerful Islamic evocations that play very loud on the tv. It takes me only about ten minutes to catch a ride, or technically a minibus for which I pay a good price, that takes me 500 kilometer up the road to Cairo. I sleep most of the way, but on the stretches where I am awake I gaze at the sandy desert and the electricity poles that stand parallel to the highway. The sun sets beautifully when we arrive in the province of Cairo. We drive like madmen, passing cars left and right, claxoning constantly to find the smallest possible gap between two big fuel trucks. Arrival in Cairo, a crowded bus station, just like what I’m used to.

The reliable Cairo metro system takes me to “Mubarak”. I see there are also stations called “Sadat” and “Nasser”.
“Yes”, says a passenger, “all our presidents are underground”.
So I hop off at Mubarak and explore a side street that turns out to be a huge street market. I indulge in a delicious Egyptian drink made of chick peas, something very spicy, and a twist of lemon. Gradually, it becomes clear to me what I have to do: orientation. A tourist map from the train station, some helpful passers-by, a metroride, and a short walk later I sit inside a café and read my email messages. There are fewer than expected, not so many have replied my newsletter. I call a couchsurfer and there is a place to crash available. Happy that the money can go to the children’s cancer hospital and not to the condo, lawyer-bill, facelift, tailored suit, Mercedes-Benz, or gooseliver paté of some rich hotel owner.

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Published by

Kamiel Choi

Dutch philosopher and poet, sometimes sharing thoughts on the internet.

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