|Map 7 – Port Said, Egypt
About Port Said
Port Said is situated at the northern end of the Suez Canal with a population of around 700,000 people. It’s economy is based on fishing, chemicals, processed food and cigarettes, and is a major exporting harbour for cotton and rice. It was founded in 1859 when the Suez Canal excavations began.
It was built on the western bank of the canal which locals call the African side. Its sister city of Port Foard (pron. fo-ard) was built on the eastern bank and referred to as the Asian side. Free ferries run constantly day and night between the two sides carrying vehicles and people for free.
Some of the buildings still show pockmark bullet and shell damage from Isreali forces particularly around the New Cornishe area, when they attacked the city during the Arab-Isreal wars in 1967 and 1973. Most of the inhabitants evacuated the city at the time.
Right: Grounds of the SCA Yacht Club
1300hrs: Quarantine Doctor arrives with Felix and sticks a device against my ear which goes beep. He says, “Good”. The fee for this is $80.00 US Dollars. Glad I didn’t have to bare any unmentionable parts. Would probably have cost a small fortune.
One of the rally boats Cobbles comes in. Learn later the skipper’s name is Maurice and that he’s South African. He must be pretty tired because we don’t see him emerge after tying up. Take a power nap myself.
1430hrs: The official measurers arrive to measure the boat so they’ll know how much to charge for us to go through Suez Canal. We don’t get to find out how much until the day before we leave which doesn’t leave much time to dispute it. They don’t actually do any measurements at all but simply accept what we hand over. Sayid drops off our passports with appropriately stamped visa’s for one month duration.
1600hrs: Head for the showers. Cold water only. Turn on the tap and somebody else loses water. Group of young lads swimming around just off the dock. Seems to be some sort of training thing with a bloke there being quite active using a whistle at them. There’s a couple of ladies wearing full burka’s sitting at tables under the trellised covered area looking on while a group of Dad’s stand around along the edge of the dock.
1630hrs: Roger and I set out to go into the local town of Port Foard while Andy naps. He hadn’t had much sleep after his night watch and of course is very tired. We’re challenged by a policeman wearing a heavy woollen black jacket and trousers with bright buttons, complete with holstered pistol. Demands to see our passports and leave passes. Leave passes? Seems he thinks we must be crew off one of the ships, even though we’re in the yacht club area and our yacht is tied up here.
Luckily Mezzine is nearby and comes over but our policeman chap remains adamant about those leave passes. Eventually he reluctantly accepts just our visas after some pretty lengthy conversations with Mezzine. We’re now allowed out of the gate. In fact there are three big iron gates guarding the yacht club area from the streets.
Port Foard is a disappointment as a first introduction into Egypt. Seedy kind of place. All the grassed areas are uncut and full of potholes. Severe graffiti marks monuments. Dilapidated buildings with people living in them. Dust covers everything and is quite thick on the ground. So is litter and other rubbish including all types of animal poop from various cats, dogs and donkeys. Oh … and food scraps complete with clouds of flies.
It really shows they don’t get rain very often here to clean the place up a little bit. Nothing looks clean except for the local mosque, a rather magnificently sculptured building with tall minarets. Bins are rare to find so rubbish collects in heaps where numerous cats sift through scattering it even more. Everyone just ignores the cats which look totally unconcerned as you walk near.
|Fruit sellers in the street outside the SCA Yacht Club||Horse and cart vegetable sellers.|
Evening: Other rally boats start arriving. Felix’s agents will be kept busy during the night meeting the boats as they come in dribs and drabs. Dock area is well lit up with powerful lights mounted on towers, so much that no torches are needed to move around outside.
Sun 8 Nov 09
0930hrs: Lots of black mosquitoes in the boat this morning. Don’t hear them but can certainly feel them biting. Nine boats have arrived during the night and are tied up to the dock. Nice looking day. Egyptian workers are cleaning off rust and painting electrical distribution boards and big steel plates on the dock itself.
Mezzine walks by wearing a vest with the words Port Alacai across the back, which is a Turkish port. He greets us with a “Good Morning” and tells us he has friends all over the world, though has never left Egypt himself.
Lo Brust is the rally organiser and is travelling in his own yacht Mistral, with two young Indian lads from Cochin as crew. He drops by and steps into the cockpit for a chat. He hands over our rally T Shirts, caps and yacht banners, and gives a briefing as to what’s happening next. One of the problems with the organisation of this rally is that different services will require payment in different currencies. We are going to need Egyptian pounds (£), Euro’s (€) and US Dollars. Okay, so we’re all going to have to go to a bank.
Midday: Take a ferry across to Port Said. Spend about an hour walking around trying to find a place to draw money from an ATM and change it into other currencies. A helpful local takes us to a money exchanger who offers me 1Euro for $2 AUS. No way José. The rate is closer to $1 AUS being about .60cent Euro. This is the start of my education in dealing with “helpful” Egyptians. With hindsight from later experiences my helper would most likely have been on a commission for bringing customers.
Spend more time looking around for a bank. Find one displaying various exchange rates. Know this is going to be difficult because I have Aussie money to change to Euro, then I’ll have to buy more Euro plus some US Dollars. Takes about an hour with many explanations to various people who line up to see if they can help. Repeat explanations. Finally get it sorted out at a fair exchange rate.
Outside the bank I find a local shop owner has latched himself onto Andy and Roger who have been waiting patiently. It’s a mistake to stand too long in one place. The fellow is persistent as a fly. Wants us to go to his shop so he can give us beer, coffee, tea, coke or whatever. Quite insistent. He seems a nice enough chap so we acquiesce and go along since he obviously isn’t going to go away by himself. In his shop he gives each of us a coke, plying us with questions all the while.
Notice an old guitar in the shop window. It’s in quite good condition though badly out of tune. The steel strings are only a short distance from the 12th fret indicating the neck isn’t bowed, and it can be played without any buzzing noises. He wants 400 pounds for it (about $80 AUS). I’m not really interested but he persists. Andy offers to go halves. Finally our man accepts 220 pounds (about $44 AUS) for it. He then presents each of us with a little gift for our wives. Andy being the Captain gets a necklace while Roger and I get a bracelet each.
Roger and Andy still napping but get up when I return. 12 boats have now arrived. Relax on board until dark. Mossies start coming back again. Felix’s agents turn up with our 70 litres drums of diesel.
1730hrs: Two more boats arrive making 14. One of the boats had to turn back to Cyprus and will catch up with us later at Hurghada in the Red Sea.Evening: Easy night aboard. Tugs travelling up and down the canal send waves crashing into our docking area causing boats to jolt about. Gets to be a bit annoying after a while.
Mon 9 Nov 09
Leisurely rise. Do some washing of underclothes, sheet, pillows and towel.
1000hrs: Meeting of all rally participants conducted by Lo Brust under the timber trellis area of the yacht club area. Gives out all the information we need including what to expect from the pilots and the documents for passage through Suez. With this last item we find Felixs’ agents very helpful and efficient giving each skipper careful attention. Congenial atmosphere amongst the yachties. Sayid arranges for tea, iced water and cans of soft drink to be delivered.
1145hrs: Andy and Roger start refuelling the boat from the 70 litre drums. Maurice from Cobbles comes by. Introductions all around. Shows us a handy trick that can help prevent spillage of diesel into the sea. He sticks a short tube down alongside the siphon hose into the drum, seals the hole with rags and blows into it. This sends the fuel straight into the fuel inlet without getting a gobful of diesel from sucking on the siphon hose to get it started.
Beautiful sunny day. Cloudless. Warm but not hot. Bought some local pears yesterday. There’s a strong but nice smell coming from them which fills the saloon area of the boat. Smell is somewhere between a passionfruit and persimmon. Almost doughy flesh with a large seed pod in the middle with dozens of pale seeds. Quite nice if unusual.
Afternoon: Maurice goes with us back across the canal. Return to the bank to draw some more Egyptian pounds. Do some minor shopping – food and bits and pieces. Walk for miles passing through the New Corniche, a more upmarket area along the beaches of Port Said facing the Mediterranean Sea and which serves the large cruise liners that dock here. Trendy shops, restaurants and hotels. Much nicer looking area and much cleaner.
Go into a more upmarket looking than usual internet cafe. Get a direct connection to the internet with my own laptop using a cable supplied by them. With my online security covered am able to send off some emails, do some internet banking and visit a couple of websites. Payment takes the grand sum of one pound (approx 20 cents AUS).
|street scene Port Said||horse and sulky rides for tourists from the cruise ships|
|another imposing mosque in Port Said||stalls in the bazaar area of Port Said|
|Left: the new and old ways of selling in the streets of the Port Said bazaar.|
Dusk: Sundowners in the cockpit with Maurice. He wants to get back to the east coast of Africa but is undecided which way to go, given the current situation with pirates around Somalia and Madagascar. Lo comes by to tell us Jenzminc and Cobbles will be leaving day after tomorrow.
Approx 1800hrs: Andy is beginning to prepare dinner. Mezzine comes by saying we’ll need 10 passport photos by early tomorrow morning. Off we go across the road to a photographer. He won’t be able to do anything until 6am tomorrow morning. On telling Mezzine this he dispatches a young man named Achmed to take us over to Port Said to get the photos. Achmed is in his mid to late 20’s and still lives at home with Mum and Dad. Quite tall and sturdy but tending towards getting slightly chubby. Doesn’t want to marry because it is too expensive. Pleasant and helpful young man.
Port Said is just as bustling by night as by day. Achmed says it’s like that 24 hours a day. He saunters around for what seems like ages before finally arriving at the photographer’s shop, who doesn’t seem too inclined to do the job. However we’re individually taken upstairs, posed precisely by moving us around instead of the camera and then flashed, then told to come back in 45 minutes. Achmed takes us to a cafe in the bazaar area where you can buy just about anything. We order coffee and settle down to watch the people.
Moving around by night in Port Said is interesting to say the least. Probably the main difference is that car headlights are very much optional, as is where you can walk; footpath or street – doesn’t matter. If a driver doesn’t flash his lights or honk then move quickly because he hasn’t seen you.
Pick up our photos after an hour and return back across the canal. Pick up my laundry. They’d done a top job repairing my jeans. Seamless work.
2030hrs: All back at the boat and pretty tired now. Just had some soup for dinner. Early night for all.
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