Speeding up and slowing down; travelling versus tourism

On the tourist trail in Abu Simbel, south of Aswan, Egypt. Is it possible to be

On the tourist trail in Abu Simbel, south of Aswan, Egypt. Is it possible to be 'templed out'?


Lately I’ve been doing too much tourism. I’m exhausted and I miss travelling.

After ten wonderfully comfortable days in Cairo, falling in love with the city and getting to the stage where we were being treated meals by the hostel owner, who I was playing Egyptian backgammon with every night – it was time to move on.

First we detoured north to visit the Suez Canal at Port Said and then to Alexandria to visit the library. I don’t regret this detour. The colourful Nile Delta fishing villages between Port Said and Alexandria remain my favourite landscape of the trip so far. Alexandria’s famed library and coffee shops deserve their renown.

More than that, on the tram heading into town to look for a hostel we met two amazing people. Susan and Samy, an American and Egyptian-Armenian-Canadian couple, who took us into their home and treated us like their children – spoilt us rotten, in fact. We literally had to tear ourselves away from their amazing generosity and the feeling that we were ‘home’.

A fabulous detour but since then it has been a mad dash south, these last few days the maddest of all. We have entered temple and tomb territory and I have been hectically trying to combine travel, tourism and journalism with the result of not doing any really well.

Travel is sitting at a bus station for half a day watching Egyptian kids fly kites in a park not far away. Travel is overnight bus rides through the desert with stops at bright blue roadhouse cafes pumping Arabic music into the night. Travel is the bus stopping on a random stretch of road because it’s time to pray.

Travel is dusty oases towns where the locals have huge smiles, make two frantic ‘lines’ (the women’s and men’s) from six in the morning at the bakery and the children practice their English on you.  Travel is wondering through an empty warren of an old Islamic city out into the desert far enough so that you can finally be free of people for a small while – travel is spotting a desert fox.

Tourism is arriving in Luxor, a town with more than its fair share of tourist attractions, and being hassled and hustled from the get-go by people who, fair-enough, are desperate for a bit of tourist cash and who from their vantage point can’t understand that you too have budgets and bills. Tourism is bus-loads of other tourists, fun days out, amazing sites but too many miles covered, too much seen, a sensory overload. Too little time to think and write and catch up with the website. Too little time to feel the place you’re in, feel part of your surroundings, instead of just passing through.

Tourism is waking up at 3am, being packed into a mini bus with 20 or so other sleepy westerners and Asians, being driven for hours into the desert, seeing some amazing landscapes and a beautiful sunrise, for the one or two who are awake, being dropped at Abu Simbel arguing with guides, having an hour to see this strange temple while trying to avoid being harassed by more ‘guides’ and ‘guards’ looking for cash. Tourism is watching people try to get the angle of the photo just right so that it looks like the huge statue of Ramses 2 is wearing sunglasses.

Now we are in Aswan. A town that acts as the gateway to the imposing Abu Simbel, a town nestled on the Nile, with gorgeous islands and the white sails of feluccas rippling in the wind. A town so stunningly pretty it can’t help but be a tourist town. Even the locals treat it as such, lining up on the promenade every night to have their wedding photos taken while Nubian drummers sing and dance.

Aswan has another quality too. It is the closest Egyptian city to the crossing for Sudan – it is a sieve that collects travellers. Here our trip is nothing out of the ordinary, we have met so many others doing the same overland crossing, many for charity. From those heading north we hungrily gather tips on travelling in Sudan. From those heading south like us we compare itineraries and hope we will meet again for another long dinner. Last night with a multicultural mix of eight of us around the table, we could almost have been at a London dinner party except for the different quality to the excitement, heat, lack of alcohol and the fact that we paid the equivalent of 1 British pound each for our meal.

Sudan and South Sudan. Even now that they are divided into two separate countries each is huge and we have a frightening number of miles to cover if we are to be home in Sydney by Christmas as we have promised our folks. Sometimes those numbers of miles scare me. I’m scared of sped-up travel. But I’m also joyous. Happy about the fact that for the first time in a long time both Steve and I will be in a country where neither of us has been before.

We will be off the beaten track and I’m sure we’ll be struggling to find internet access which will, unfortunately, make our updates less frequent. But we will also be off the tourist trail, gone will be that hectic need to see what so many others have seen before. Exactly what will replace it I’m not sure but mostly what I hope for is good travels and good journalism.


Best tourism

Sudan and South Sudan tourism itself is interesting. Over all tourism is great that one lost him in that. good travel and tourism is the always great.
Shimla India

Don't worry we are:)

Hey triple H thank you so much!! Don't worry we are keeping safe - in fact you would not believe how safe we feel right now in Khartoum. The people are amazing. Big hugs being sent your way. X

Keep safe

Thinking of you guys and loving all the stories! Keep it up, but most of all keep safe!