I hadn’t heard back from Ahmad and so decided to skip Cairo, sleep in, and have a late breakfast. The reason why I’m in Suez in the first place is that a friend of mine, Justus, will go through the Suez Canal today in the afternoon. He’s an officer on a container freighter on it’s way to Asia.
Around 11am Justus txted that they were now leaving the Great Bitter Lake as number 3 in a convoy of ships going south.
I tried to call Ahmad to hire him to go north of Suez to see if there was a spot where I could get close to the canal. He said he was at work right now. So it looks like driving a taxi wasn’t his only work.
I checked out of the hotel and waited outside for a taxi with an English-speaking driver who I could explain my plans to. Eventually I gave up and hopped into one where the driver at least seemed to understand where I wanted to go and that he’d have to wait for a while. His quote seemed reasonable.
He dropped me of inside the city, though, near the port. On the river bank soldiers were patrolling and everything was fenced of with barbed wire. No way to get close enough to see or be seen. The driver was ready to leave and return in 2 hours’ time. Not what I had intended…
I was checking the GPS about other possibilities when Mr Mohammed – that’s how he introduced himself – appeared out of nowhere. He knew me from last night already when he had tried to chat me up and sell his taxi services to me. His English was ok and I managed to explain to him where I wanted to go and why. He said that the road north of Suez, which runs very close to the canal, was completely shut off by police and army.
Instead he brought me to a different place where I could get within 10 meters of the water – an army-patrolled barbed wire was the limit again. At least I was standing next to a mosque, a good landmark for Justus.
The first ship of the convoy sneaked past. I learned that what used to be a promenade was now sensitive military area and I was not allowed to take any pictures.
I had been waiting for almost 2 hours already and the patrolling soldiers got a bit nervous about my presence. The third ship in the convoy appeared in the distance when a couple of army officers turned up and started inquiring about my being there. I had clearly been in the area for too long and they had become suspicious of that westerner with the big backpack hanging around an abandoned mosque near the Suez Canal!
Fortunately, that ship coming up was indeed the one I was waiting for. They tensioned when its name matched the one I had mentioned before, but immediately relaxed when they saw a lone figure stand at the side of the bridge returning my waving. I was even allowed to take a few pictures. We tried to shout a few words across the canal, but didn’t understand a thing the other said. I earned some disapproving looks and questions from my army entourage for the noise. Very cool that it was possible to see Justus there, anyway. :)
Mr Mohammed drove me the 500km back to Dahab – the buses still don’t run -, a service I paid dearly for. He, too, chose the longer route around the southern tip of the Sinai instead of going through the interior via St. Catherine. Too dangerous?