With all our baggages & attendants, we crossed the mighty Nile, its deep & powerful waters flowing North,
leaving the Western bank behind us , and struck out towards the East.
It was a long and arduous journey,
firstly through well populated lush pastures of sugar cane and wheat, with a multiplicity of other produce proudly displayed along the roadside – stacked-up crates of tomatoes and piles of squashes & gourds and baskets of garlic, bananas & hibiscus palms and so many more besides. The whole land is irrigated by wide canals penetrating far beyond the great river which cause many busy towns and villages to be dotted along their courses. And then we found ourselves traversing many miles of desolate desert, flat lands of barren scrub with the horizon blurred by a dense fog of dust which creates a pervasive mist in all directions. We learned that this affliction is often blown in by a persistent wind from the South – from the vastness of the Saudi empty quarter. Very few living things were thriving here but we contended with scorpions and snakes great & small, with wild wolves that will attack a man and destroy him as a pack; we searched tirelessly for the Singer Gazelle of this region but this was in vain; and we overcame flies in large numbers. Indeed, I was happy to have insisted that the ladies had taken the full range of prophylactic immunisation vaccinations & innoculations before travelling to these parts.We rested a while in a bedou area and took local beverages in the shade, before tackling the main challenge: the great nameless mountain range of the Eastern desert. These folk live as nomads with camels and sheep and donkeys and we conversed briefly with their children.
From the lowlands, which rise gradually through gentle bluffs & hills, the desert increasingly erupts into greater and greater peaks of eroded sandstone rock, standing as vertical cliffs which would be altogether impassable were it not for the paths around and passes between the summits. The scree is loose and runs down the mountainside in well-trodden tracks; great slabs of rock have been split into shards and slices and worn down by the elements over millennia.Then, at last, in the far distance, we spied the water and the surf.
It is not red as some travellers falsely report; it is a fine azure blue, much like waters at Swanage, but nonetheless, what a welcome sight! With the lively breeze raising a lively swell with waves that break right against the roadway, our pulses were quickened by the relief from barren and overwhelming landscapes and by the familiarity of the coastal elements.
Several small towns and harbours break the monotony of the sand and dunes; phosphate extraction plants and trading ports excite interest; fishing vessels and larger craft ply their ways across the waters.
Our new abode is in the Nubian style (see pics)
with plentiful opportunities for bathing. Two sea beaches and a jetty and four swimming pools in various sizes are all available.
However the wind blows ceaselessly and, in common with most other residents we seek shelter from its ravages.
El Quseir is also known as Al Qusayr, meaning small palace or fortress, we just say Al. It was previously called Portus Albus by the Romans and Thagho by the pharaohs. People used to come from Somalia to buy leather, ivory and incense and it was a stopping point on the haj from North Africa to Mecca; during the French occupation, it was the arrival point for foreign Jihadi fighters from all over and it was the only place you could buy Yemeni coffee. Potable water used to be imported from Aden. In the old roman port they found hundreds of amphorae. Nowadays there are angels hovering around.