Monday, June 29, 2009

A little piece of paradise, and the road to Hell

Cairo, with all its hustle and bustle, makes for a fantastic city to live in. There's never a dull moment, and I still see new things everyday, it never ceases to amaze me. The crowds however, result in traffic, which makes the air downtown unbreathable at times, and the noise from the cars constantly beeping their horns giving you a never ending pulsation in the back of your brain. Should you reach this point, it is time to get out of the city limits, even if only for a day. And for this, there is only one destination that I prefer to go to. Ain el-Sokhna is a little piece of paradise located just under 2 hours away from Cairo ( should be 2 hours, i'll get to that point in a bit :p). Sokhna is located on the Red Sea, and offers a few beaches that you can go to, I prefer the Stella del Mar, but for that you'll either need to have rented a villa, have a friend who owns a villa there and can give you a beach pass, or (as i witnessed this weekend) be a very smooth talker and throw a couple pounds here and there.

Ultimate result, we ended up on the beach, and spent a lovely afternoon in the sun, next to what started off as cheesy elevator music, and morphed into trance-like beach hits. Course we forgot our cooler, so the challenge was to drink your beer before it got too warm, giving you, oh, 30 minutes to polish off 5 beers? I failed, and attempted to resolve the problem by throwing a couple ice cubes in a cup to cool the beer that way. I ended up drinking the semi-warm beer, as adding ice to beer is possible the most insulting thing you can do to it, and it tastes foul! Sokhna provides the perfect reprieve from Cairo, fresh air, fewer crowds, and of course the sea right in front of you. It doesn't get much better than that. Really makes you appreciate how lucky you are living in this part of the world, now if there was only skiing here...hmm..

So the trip to Sokhna is roughly an hour and a half from the first toll booth to driving into Sokhna. I say 1.5 hours under the assumption that you are not travelling at break neck speeds, and doing the posted 120 km an hour speed limit, so we can include, oh, 15 % of the cars driving on this road. For some reason, insert car and driver onto that sokhna road, and the long stretches of tarmac prove too tempting for many, who end up doing 200 + flying down this road. Now, were you on the autobahn in Germany, 200 wouldn't be a big deal. Here however, you have to factor in very large lorries, also doing break neck speeds, microbuses that are jam packed with people, often times being so packed that people are hanging on to the side, or over-loaded with packages on top. I've always wonder how they manage to stack them, as having watched people pack the backs of their trucks, there's only one thing that crosses your mind, "I hope to God I'm not behind that thing when its load goes flying." It's unbelievable to see packages, furniture, clothing, and all sorts of other oddities, packed 2 meters high on top of these microbuses. Oftentimes I can't help but wonder how they don't topple over. Combine all this, with the few patches of road that either are in dire need of repair, or simply don't have sufficient lighting, and you've got yourself the Sokhna road. It's like living in a game of Gran Turismo, drive as fast as I possibly can, and dodge the cars like some perverted form of frogger. What baffles me more, is the wrecks that are left on the side of the road, where the car is visibly totaled, do not provide a deterrent to people driving like a bat out of hell. Driving is a privilege, not a right, WHY do people seem to forget this? Suppose I prove to be a pain in the ass passenger, as I have no qualms in telling people to slow the eff down, my life is worth the extra half hour drive to the beach. So for those who sit there and boast about being able to make it to Sokhna in 30 minutes, I ask of you, is it worth the possible price?!

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