Ismailia – Egypt
Pasha Ismail the ruler of Egypt during the construction of the Suez Canal, founded Ismailia. The French Consul in Egypt in 1854, Ferdinand de Lesseps lived here in a large house right besides the Sweetwater Canal, which was built to bring fresh water from the Nile River for the project. He was the driving force behind the idea, design and construction of the canal.
Later on agriculture was established along the canal and Ismailia grew in size exponentially as people flocked to the region to live and work. Today it is something of an urban mess with at least a 1 million (or more) people.
Thurs 12 Nov 09
0900hrs: Thick smoke or smog covers the bay. Easy morning on board. Find the third toilet cubicle in the facilities ashore works okay but the water pipe in the neck of the bowl points upwards. In fact they all point upwards giving a hint as to their intended use if you turn a tap on. I resolve not to sit myself down too far into the toilet seat and to make sure I take toilet paper with me.
Have a hot shower using a hand held hose and spray. There’s a door but no curtain so have to be careful not to overspray my clothes hanging over the door since there’s no nails or other hooks to use for the purpose in this one. Plenty of hot water pressure though – beautiful. Some yachties head into town.
Left: An obelisk with Egyptian hieroglyphics in the main street.
A railway line runs through the centre of the town. Streets are better tended with malls and parks on one side than the other side of the line, but the entire place is littered with rubbish. Its standard is probably somewhere between Port Said and Port Foard. From a distance it actually looks a bit appealing with its parks and trees and the way the streets have been ordered with roundabouts, culverts and other civic constructions, but close up the impression soon dissolves.
Some evidence of late 19th and early 20th century charm still survives but it always looks neglected and sad. Pedestrians need to watch their footing as footpaths have uneven levels and the road curbing can be up to 30cm high. The Clearwater Canal was named for its fresh water connection with the Nile but is anything but sweet, filled with rubbish and badly needing a scraping of embedded underwater vegetation.
Walk over to the other side of the railway line and complete a shallow circuit of some of the streets. Nothing of any major interest over there except maniac car drivers and narrow streets. Once again dilapidated buildings and pot-holed streets. Curious smells. Some of them kind of nice but mixed in occasionally with a scent of big dollops of dog shit squashed on the road or footpath. Some of the dogs must be as big as camels. Pays to wear shoes instead of sandals.
Back over on the nicer side is an internet cafe with wi-fi facilities. Will probably return later with Roger and Andy. Some not quite so cheeky youngsters in the park. One with a burst of bravado in front of his mates comes up to grab my finger and welcome me to Egypt.
1430hrs: Back onboard. Do some computer work.
1530hrs: Roger and Andy return with a small amount of groceries. Take their washing ashore to the laundry facility in the ablutions block inside the berthing area. This consists of one heavy duty washing machine and one that is falling apart, plus some large cardboard boxes I think they must have once been packed in. A handwritten sign says, “Laundry 3$”.
Spend the rest of the day quietly in the marina chatting socially with other yachties. Maurice from Cobbles had a catnap for an hour or so and came up looking like he’d been in bed for a week. He’d had a good day in town. We hired an Egyptian taxi driver named Mohammed to find a place which sold oil. Maurice had wanted to buy 4 litres in Port Said but the best price he could get was £146 (approx $29). Mohammed got it for him for £53 (approx $10).
Jamie and Liz, a British couple from Esper make arrangements with Mohammed to take them to Cairo and the pyramids tomorrow for £200 ($40). That doesn’t include any entry fees and part of the deal is to include his lunch. That’s not a bad deal when compared to the rally’s price of USD $75 – but of course that includes everything. With Mohammed’s phone number now available Roger is able to make a similar arrangement for the day after, and I understand crews from two other boats are lining up as well.
Andy and Roger get back from doing their laundry. The £3 is for one load and payable at an adjacent small kiosk selling soft drinks, coffee and £30 (less than $5) medium sized pizzas.
Evening: The marina area is quiet tonight. Not much movement about the boats. Have a chat with Jamie who also has an interest in photography. He maintains a blog on his own website and I think part of his income is from doing some kind of internet work which he does from the comfort of his boat.
A group of workers descend on the concourse of the marina area and start pulling tables together, laying out white sheets in obvious preparation for some kind of party. Turns out the Harbour Master is having a birthday party for one of his children. The party consists of all boys of around 10-12 or so. A young girl in her pre-teens stands at the end of the table, who along with two other girls watch the goings on with some disdain. The rest of the party include what looks like the Mum and the Grandmum plus two other women, none of whom wear burka’s. Mum is the organiser of the children while Dad mostly stands around talking on his two-way radio.
They all sing Happy Birthday in English and Egyptian, then a cake is set alight with sparklers. A kind of fireworks gushes coloured flames about 50 cm straight up. Try and blow that one out kid! After the festivities the Harbour Master presents Jenzminc with a few balloons and some of those whistles that roll out when you blow them.
A large brig with a highly varnished timber hull, several decks and 2 masts comes into the marina. Doesn’t appear to have bow thrusters and spends some time working back and forth against a buoy attached to the sea bed, turning itself around so it can reverse into the dock. While doing this it churns up successive waves that crash through the already docked boats. Thank you very much.
Fri 13 Nov 09
Morning: The big brig departs at first light. Andy and Roger go over to put another load of washing through but there’s a line up for the one working washing machine. All quiet around the marina again this morning. Beautiful day outside, clear sky and 22 degrees, light breeze. Glorious.
1000hrs: Lo Brust conducts a meeting for the next leg through the canal, describing how we’ll be obtaining a sailing permit for the Gulf of Suez and discusses several safe anchorages amongst the reefs in the Red Sea. He refers to the required charts and a Red Sea Pilot guide book. We will be picking up the sailing permits at Wadi Dome, a place some hours sailing south of Port Suez. Only three boats at a time can be processed so departure from Port Suez will be staggered over four days. Jenzminc is in the third group. More waiting around before we can move.
1130hrs: Jenzminc has dropped back on her anchor and almost touching the concrete dock. Probably due to the big brig boat that came in last night. Release the stern lines and retrieve the anchor. Drop a marlin spike overboard whilst trying to fend a buoy off the hull. The hand grip had slid off the end but luckily it floats. Andy resets the anchor and I’m able to pick up the absconding marlin spike whilst we reverse back into the dock again. Rerun the stern lines.
Afternoon: All go into town. Visit the internet cafe first to find it locked. A man comes up after a while and opens up. Assume he’s been at his prayers or having a siesta. Some technical difficulties at first but he finally gets us working on a wi-fi connection. The battery power is low on my computer and I didn’t think it would last before I got online but it did, and I manage to get off an email and do some banking. Cost the princely sum of £2.
Leave the internet cafe and start uptown. Struck by the lack of people and traffic on the streets. Realise that Friday is a holy day for Muslims similar to our own Sundays. Most shops shut. Visit George’s, a little cubby house of a tavern selling alcohol and food. The place is packed with about a dozen or so people in there. Spot a door with a toilet sign above and make my towards it expecting it to be the toilets. A waiter suddenly comes through the toilet door with trays of food. Doesn’t look good for getting a meal in this place, until I see it’s also the door to the kitchen. The toilets are actually down to the left a bit.
Leave Andy and Roger in there to have a beer or two and go for a walk. Minarets start up again but this time it sounds like sermons instead of the usual singing call to prayers. Several of them chat away at high decibels as I move around through the streets. Return to the boat and take a catnap.
Evening: Jamie from Esper returns from Cairo. Comes aboard to tell us all about it followed by his friendly cat that jumps aboard. It starts checking around both upstairs and downstairs but isn’t hurting anything. Order three pizza’s from the marina kiosk two margaritas and one beef. They’re all quite nice. Tomorrow we’ll also go to Cairo.
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