Day 8, October 19: Kharga Oasis to Luxor, 349 km
Our last day, a 4:30 wake-up call and eight hours of straight riding. The scooters are beat to hell, and so are we. By this time, the armed guard has been replaced with a car full of Egyptian police. Terrorism is rare in this area, but it has happened, and neither our group nor the Egyptian Department of Tourism wants trouble.
We stop in the middle of the road about halfway there. The Egyptian cops open the doors of their car and one of them puts a CD in the stereo. House music starts pounding, and the police and the videographers start an undulating, hypnotizing dance. We enter Luxor, and ride 26 riders wide up the slate courtyard that leads to the Karnak Temple, right up to the entrance. Meetings are held and conclusions are made.
Egypt’s got problems. Tourism has dropped since the Egyptian revolution, the overthrow of the old dictator Mubarak, and the democratic election. The new president is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and educated people are worried. Mubarak had a huge support structure for his corrupt regime, including police, and in some areas, there just aren’t police anymore—they just packed up and left.
A word about stereotypes: I never saw an angry Muslim, except outside of a soccer game in Cairo that I mistakenly thought was a rally. No religion is perfect—as I heard somebody say in a Jamaican documentary about Rastafarianism, "you can just as easily close your mind with prayer and herb, as open it"—but I saw nothing except a welcoming, positive spirit and a sense of humor unrivaled anywhere else in the world.
And there will be a Cross Egypt Challenge 2013.
Want to ride this year? $1600 American gets you just about everything but airfare. Registration opens in the spring: www.crossegyptchallenge.com.