18-Jun-2004 -- There was a bit of a debate on which route we should convoy our equipment between the Western Desert and the Red Sea coast. Basically, to avoid the Cairo traffic, you come into October 6th City, turn south onto the Fayyūm, then Asyūṭ desert roads, and then cross the Nile at Baniy Suwayf. You can then go either north and across to the Gulf of Suez on the al-Za`farāna road, or south and across the Šaykh Faḍl road to Ra's Ġārib. Having never driven either, I was not able to offer any constructive advice. However, some data had to be delivered to our flycamp just outside Ra's Ġārib, so this was an opportunity to do drive both routes. The fact that 29N 32E lay only 3 km from the al-Za`farāna road sealed the deal!
So at 5:45 on Friday morning we left Cairo, drove through Gīza, then south to Fayyūm, through Baniy Suwayf, south down the east bank of the Nile until Šaykh Faḍl and then east to Ra's Ġārib. When we stopped to deliver the data, the trip odometer was at 490 km. We had a quick lunch at the flycamp and then headed north to al-Za`farāna and then west towards al-Kuraymāt. About half way across, we left the blacktop to have coffee and sandwiches at 29N 32E.
I had read about the risk of mines in the previous report in January, but we use mine clearance wherever needed in our Egypt operations. The only areas in the Eastern Desert where I am aware that it is needed are the beaches along the Gulf of Suez. We have used the Za`farāna road many times without restrictions and a quick chat with our survey foreman, who has years of experience surveying the deserts of Egypt, confirmed that there are no mines in that area.
I was still a bit wary as I left the blacktop, but it was soon apparent that there were tracks everywhere across the gravel plain, many recent and some, alarmingly, seemed to be heading directly to the Confluence. I was glad when they veered off before I got too close. Then I was 50 m away and disaster struck! - There was a fresh green Carling beer bottle with labels marking the spot and fresh tyre tracks circling the bottle. Obviously confluence hunters had beaten me to it. That was a bit disheartening, even for my Garmin who had locked on the zeros with relish on my last trip but was definitely lethargic this time. Anyway we drowned our disappointment with coffee and sandwiches then bagged our rubbish and the Carling bottle and it was back to Cairo.
The rest of the road to al-Kuraymāt was quiet and enjoyable, like the previous 640 km, but the last 80 km from al-Kuraymāt to Ma`ādiy up the busy east bank of the Nile was torturous, to say the least - far more in line with normal Egypt driving! Back home I had a quick look at the website and nothing posted - so perhaps I can claim some compensation and be the first to post.