There’s no doubt that Egypt is a stunning and unforgettable place to travel. With such large distances between places, and little but desert between them, apart from flying trains are probably the best way to get around.
It was 1999 when I went to Egypt, and the country was a lot happier than it can claim to be today, and probably most people are thinking of steering clear of Egypt at the moment and with fair reason, but my time there was pretty memorable, and for good reasons.
Cairo was warm, but not too hot in April 1999. The pyramids and Sphinx, frankly, blow your mind away even though there’s a KFC 50 metres from the entrance and you can’t walk 100 metres without someone trying to sell you a camel ride.
Cairo’s museum was amazing but the city as a whole is really so very big, and quite polluted too. I can’t say that I hated it though, but equally I certainly didn’t love it. The train was booked (all this from memory) at the train station. My best friend and I travelled Egypt together and we were being the stingy brothers, and we opted for a seat.
The seats were comfortable, the train was long with at least a dozen carriages, diesel-pulled as always. We left in the night with families every side of the aisle, and in it. It was reasonably comfortable I guess, seats weren’t too narrow, legroom was okay, not too hot or cold, cleaner than second class in India, but you know, not ‘clean’ I guess.
We got some sleep, not a lot, three hours maybe. An evening departure and a lunch time arrival the next day. The train is going from north to south, Cairo to Aswan, along the Nile for most of the way. Either side of the river, it’s just desert and not that much else. The Nile is renowned as a life-giver, but it doesn’t seem to extend that far on either side. Nevertheless, it’s impressive to wake to that sight.
The temperature further south of Cairo just went in one direction – up! By the time we pulled into the sleepy Nile-side town of Aswan, it was over the 40-degree mark. We were told at our hotel there that they got one day of rain in the last year. I could believe it. We collapsed in the hotel room for a few hours. It was not a place for doing much in the middle of the day.
The train journey is about 14 hours, there are sleepers and various classes. It was a great experience being in 2nd class with loads of people and families, until we wanted to sleep. It’s a long journey and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a sleeper if it’s in your budget. We were on the MEGA cheap at the time. 20 bucks a day (we failed to keep that budget, but still ran at about $25).
Have you taken this epic train journey and how did you find it? Did you brave the seats in second class? Please comment!