Friday, October 19th, 2012
- To the finish line
As they drew nearer to the finish line, organizers and riders shared
feelings of excitement and relief.
They had their last daily brief and the riders were given the chance to
talk about their impressions on the 2012 season of Cross Egypt
Challenge, their expectations and their overall satisfaction. It was a
bittersweet meeting for everyone.
As the end drew near they had one last photo-stop before reaching Luxor,
as if trying to stretch the final hours they would spend together as a
team. They reached the finish line at Karnak temple before sunset, where
a grand celebration was held in their honor.
They were greeted by school children dressed in Pharaonic and oriental
costumes, boy and girl scouts who waved Egyptian flags side by side to
their city flags. The governor of Luxor greeted and congratulated the
riders one by one. The governorate provided the team with a special tour
of the Karnak Temple, one of the most fascinating temples of the world.
It took nearly 2000 years to complete the massive structure.
The 2012 season of Cross Egypt Challenge ended in Luxor and was
officially declared a success.
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
- The outers
After spending a relaxing night at Dakhla Oasis, the Cross Egypt
Challenge team was on the move again, this time towards Kharga, the last
of the oases on their route, and their last stop in the vast Western
desert. Kharga is the capital of the New Valley Governorate, so here the
adventurers were welcomed by the governor and other officials, who
offered them a tour of the city.
Sadly a few of the riders suffered a minor accident in Kharga and had to
be taken to hospital for minor bruises and cuts. The rest of the team
went sand-boarding and ate batata (sweet potatoes). There, some local
scouts played music for the riders and served them tea and snacks. Many
riders were surprised to discover that in few days the Egyptian
Sand-Board Olympics were about to take place in Kharga.
The team was reunited at the hotel for dinner and enjoyed the local
Bedouin entertainment that was provided by the governor. Reassured by
the fact that everyone was okay, the team enjoyed the rest of the night.
Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
- The inners
The team set off from Farafra on Wednesday morning heading to Dakhla
Oasis, known colloquially as the inner oasis. Their journey on that day
was again through vast sand dunes.
City officials greeted the riders at the entrance to Dakhla. They were
given a tour of the fortified Islamic town of Al Qasr which was built by
Ayubid kings in the 12th century on the remains of a Roman era
settlement. They did some shopping at the town’s old market which is
known for its Bedouin handmade straw baskets and other straw products.
The team spent the night at the environmentally-friendly Desert Lodge
Hotel. The hotel runs on hydroelectric and solar energy, has its own
water well which is also used for agricultural purposes, making the
hotel self-sufficient. It is staffed by locals who always greet you with
Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
- Black or White?
In the wee hours of the morning the whole Cross Egypt Challenge team
was up and running, armed with cameras they waited patiently for the
desert sunrise. The organizers were satisfied, as this meant they could
have a head start. Their aim was to finish what was left of the rough
road and take the road to Farafra Oasis, which is the most isolated
oasis in Egyptian desert.
The road from Bahariya to Farafra may be one of the most picturesque
roads of the whole journey. The Black Desert is located just outside of
Bahariya oasis, it is unlike any desert in the world, instead of sand it
is formed of layers of black rocks smoothed by winds. A sharp contrast
is the White Desert, 45 km north of Farafra. The desert has white,
massive chalk rock formations and strange balancing of rocks on top of
white pillars. Egyptian and international participants alike were amazed
by Egypt’s hypnotizing beauty.
They reached Farafra sometime before sunset. Christine Manoukian
remembers the team’s entrance into this oasis with particular fondness.
“It was a small oasis, with a few but friendly inhabitants”, she says.
The local Bedouins of Farafra all came out to greet their guests. They
smiled and waved at them and shouted words of encouragement. The
children of the oasis were excited the most and they even came out to
see them taking off the following day before going to school.
The team was pleased with the warm and friendly atmosphere, and was even
happier to be in a cozy hotel designed in the tradition Bedouin motif,
but with all the comfortable facilities. It was a chill out night at the
hotel for the riders who enjoyed the traditional music of Farafra played
by local musicians who played Bedouin music on their special
instruments. The more resilient riders continued the night at Farafra’s
healing hot springs.
Monday, October 15th, 2012
- The challenge within the Challenge
The road from Siwa to Bahariya was the most challenging part of the
journey for Mohamed ElSherbiny, team leader of the 2012 season of Cross
Egypt Challenge. Ahmed Elzoghby, president of Cross Egypt Challenge and
Mohamed ElSherbiny had conducted an exploration trip in the summer of
2012 to evaluate the condition of this road. Not only was the road
itself in bad condition, with parts of it are extremely an off-road
experience and other parts had construction work going on, but it also
lacked any rest houses or fuel stations. For that reason, the organizing
team was prepared with a mobile gas station that carried enough fuel for
all the scooters to travel 500 km. The plan that day was to cover the
larger part of the road on the fourth day, camp that night in the desert
near Bahariya Oasis and on the following day to continue the ride to
On day 4, everyone woke up early as usual, and geared up for camping in
the desert. The road took them further into the desert from the
Governorate of Matrouh into the southern end of the governorate of 6th
of October. On this road they could see the huge sand dunes of what has
become known as the “Great Sand Sea”. They saw the mountain plateau of
“Gilf Kebir”. The scenery around them compensated the hardships they
experienced maneuvering their scooters on the rough road.
Overcome by the beautiful sites around them they had several
photo-stops, one of them at a salt lake near Siwa and others on top of
sand dunes. They reached the camping destination and went 3 km off road
into the desert to reach the camp site.
It was a moonless night and in the darkness they could see the outlines
of mountains surrounding them. They sat around the campfire after dinner
gazing into the night and behind the mountains, the night sky lit up
with stars, and our Galaxy, the Milky Way which was extremely visible on
that night was the best background to the scene.
Sunday, October 14th, 2012
- From the waters to the sands
The next day the team had an early start. They had their breakfast
and daily briefing on the terrace of their hotel and listened to the
day’s precautions as they gazed out at the white soft sands and the
turquoise waters of Marsa Matrouh’s enchanting beaches. This is where
they had to say good-bye to the big blue sea, and look forward for five
days of desert land.
Excited to visit the first oasis in the challenge, Siwa, the riders
quickly assembled in the parking lot and hopped on their scooters for
their first ever oasis experience. All the way from Cairo to Marsa
Matrouh, the roads were well paved, civilized, with trees and shade. But
as they penetrated deeper into the governorate of Matrouh, they would
sense the gradual change in topography. Even the least sensitive to
these changes would notice the change in road signs; here you would see
signs warning of camel crossings. From here on, it was a vast desert.
There was only one rest stop from Marsa Matrouh to Siwa, “Cafeteria Ammo
Sayed”, an exotic structure on a lonely road. There, they had a brown
bag lunch, prepared for them by the organizing team.
At the entrance to Siwa, they were greeted by the oasis mayor who
offered them oasis grown dates and mineral water. This has been the
traditional snack offered to weary travellers for centuries, but unlike
the past, they were served bottled “Siwa” water, a brand that is
extracted from deep underground wells in the oasis.
The mayor offered his guests a tour of the old city of Shali, a city
constructed entirely from mud and salt. After reaching their hotel, a
swim at the hotel pool was the plan to relax and rejuvenate their tired
Saturday, October 13th, 2012
- The coast
The riders woke up on Saturday morning to the scenic view from their
Maritim Jolie Ville Hotel windows. After a fresh breath of Alexandrian
autumn air, and a healthy breakfast, they gathered in the hotel meeting
room for their daily brief overlooking the Mediterranean and the magical
Corniche -seaside road- of Alexandria.
After the daily brief, the team took a quick city tour, and rode from
one end of the city to the other before passing by the Bibliotheca
Alexandria – the famous Library of Alexandria – and joining forces with
riders from “Alexandria Scooter Riders Club” who were riding along the
challenge for the day to mid-way to Marsa Matrouh.
Both the riders and their friends bid farewell to the “Pearl of the
Mediterranean” and started the long journey to the coastal city of Marsa
Matrouh. They had lunch mid-way between the two cities at one of Egypt’s
most famous North Coast resorts, Porto Marina.
The riders arrived to the city of Marsa Matrouh after it was already
dark, and were welcomed by the Governor’s representative and young girls
in traditional costumes who handed them flowers. After the official
ceremonies, the riders enjoyed an amazing Bedouin dinner, where they
took off their shoes (as is the custom when entering someone’s house in
the village) to walk into a one of a kind restaurant, styled like an
Egyptian village home. They sat around the tableya – low tables - on
gold printed leather puff cushions and tasted the different uniquely
“Matrouhian” dishes offered.
October 12th, 2012 - Zero
On the morning of Friday the 12th of October, the first daily brief
was given to the riders where detailed information on the day’s route
and a profile of the cities in the day’s route was highlighted. The
riders were assigned to their vehicles and were given the keys to their
scooters. The riders set off from the hotel onto the historical Kasr el
Nile bridge, which had become a trademark of Downtown Cairo.
The official start line for the rally was in Abdeen square where a huge
tent had been set up with the backdrop of one of Egypt’s presidential
palaces; Abdeen Palace. Already fans had been gathering from early in
the morning to witness the take-off of the 2012 season of Cross Egypt
Different scooter and motorcycle clubs came to show their support for
Cross Egypt Challenge, and to ride along till Alexandria. The Cross
Egypt Challenge team were greeted by the vice governor of Cairo and
other government officials. Journalists and television presenters
conducted interviews with members of the organizing committee, riders
and government representatives. Families, friends and fans came to cheer
for the adventurers. Curious passers-by would watch the commotion and
ask what was going on, being impressed by the efforts put in by their
young compatriots and their long-term vision of promoting scooters as an
alternative environment-friendly means of transportation, they would
decide to stay and cheer.
After the celebration, and the first official photo of the team was
taken at the start line, the Challenge scooters burst into the streets
of Cairo followed by the riders of the “Cairo Scooter Riders Club” and
“Egypt Riders”. They headed to the Pyramids of Giza.
Being a weekend, the streets of the big city were empty for the Cross
Egypt Challenge scooters and their entourage. The riders quickly reached
the Pyramids of Giza where they were treated like celebrities by
tourists and locals who asked to take photos with them. After some free
times and a few photos in front of the huge Pharaonic structures, the
riders descended the hill atop to hit the Cairo-Alexandria desert road.
They arrived at Alexandria City Center, one of the official sponsors of
the 2012 season of Cross Egypt Challenge, around dusk for a celebration.
Families and friends of participants were gathered there along with
fellow scooter riders and supporters from different organizations like
the “Alexandria Scooter Riders Club”, “Rotary and Rotaract clubs of
Alexandria Cosmopolitan”, and “Schultz American School” who gave a nice
ambiance to the celebration.
Alexandria City Center had set up a stage where members from the
organizing committee, sponsors and other officials gave short speeches,
followed by music entertainment. It was a special celebration as it
marked the success of the first day of Cross Egypt Challenge.
Wednesday + Thursday,
October 10th + 11th, 2012 -
As the final hour drew near, international participants had begun
hailing into Cairo 48 hours before the Challenge. The Challenge
organizing team from Alexandria and Cairo gathered in the challenge’s
official hotel overlooking the Nile in the luscious Gezira district to
prepare for the last minute arrangements.
They had turned the hotel meeting rooms into their operation center,
filled with the riders welcome kits containing their riding gear,
official Cross Egypt Challenge T-shirts, and most importantly, Cross
Egypt Challenge information booklets that included all what they needed
to know about riding instructions, road signals and details about the
cities they were going to visit.
Cross Egypt Challenge had also taken over the hotel garage which was
filled with colorful scooters awaiting the arrival of their riders.
Everyone kept busy on the final few days of preparation; some helping
riders with their check-in, others putting the final touches on the
welcome packs and scooters, while others worked behind the scenes taking
care of logistics and last-minute unwanted surprises that come up in
organizing such big events.
On Thursday evening when all the riders had arrived to Cairo and checked
in into the hotel, an orientation session was held during which some
ice-breaking took place and riders were given general information about
the Challenge, the route to be taken, riding instructions and safety
guidelines. A dinner on the shores of the Nile ensued, where riders
enjoyed the tasty meal and the beautiful scenery. The riders would be
reunited again with the Nile in Luxor city, in Upper Egypt after a whole
week of seeing nothing but desert.