In 1990, soon after Germany knocked England out of the World Cup, I decided to leave Germany and moved to El Mansoura in Egypt. I went there with the help of VSO, Voluntary Services Overseas. I spent two years trying to help set up a special English department at the University, teaching students of engineering, dentistry, pharmacy, agriculture etc enough English so that they could do their job effectively.
Apologies for the quality of the images. They were all taken in the pre-digital era…
In all the time I was there, I never got tired of palm trees. This picture was taken on a visit to my colleague’s house for lunch. Thanks Mahmoud for a great lunch and for suggesting this picture!
Camels are strange creatures but by far the best way to travel across the desert. I spent a week travelling through the Sinai with a group of Bedouin.
Dahab was famous as a hippy colony in the 1960s and there is still a part of Dahab that remains undeveloped – but for how much longer?
Many Egyptians have never been to Sinai because ‘there’s nothing there’. Well, nothing except spectacular mountains, stunning oases, scorpions, snakes and at night, more stars than I have ever seen in my life. This picture was taken from the top of Mount Sinai at about 5.30 in the morning.
The incredible temple at Luxor. Amazing to think that these columns are thousands of years old. I was there during the first Gulf War – hence the absence of heaving crowds of tourists, leaving me to juggle in peace, well, just the occasional papyrus seller.
Have balls, will travel. Here I am, doing a complicated five ball trick on the back of a horse in front of one of the most photographed buildings in the world. A horse helps you to get away from the crowds but is not as reliable as a bicycle. If you choose to ride around the pyramids on a horse, choose your stable carefully. Some of the stables run their skeletal nags to death.
The Nile Delta remains an amazingly fertile place and just north of the Barrage, north of Cairo, there is a network of tracks, perfect for cycling. I spent many happy hours pedalling along these tracks, on one occasion, followed by a secret policeman – also riding a rented bicycle.
The fertility of the Delta can’t last. Since the completion of the high dam at Aswan in 1970, the nutrients can no longer reach the delta – forcing farmers to use chemical fertlisers – produced using energy from the dam…
Talking of the High Dam, this is Abu Simbel, an amazing monument which was cut up and moved to higher ground to protect it from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, the lake which formed behind the High Dam.
The Mena House swimming pool. A beautiful old building with a great pool. An excellent place to relax and have a good lunch in the middle of Cairo.
It wasn’t all work in Egypt. Here I am, preparing for a diving trip near Sharm El Sheikh. The water was warm in summer, about 30, but in Winter cooled down to just 27 degrees (Celsius).
While in Sharm El Sheikh, learning how to dive, I went for a night swim. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that the tide was low and swam straight into a large sea urchin. The pain was excruciating – as was the 40 dollar bill I had to pay the doctor who rubbed some lime juice into my palm, particularly tough as I was earning just 96 dollars a month at the time!
One evening in Cairo, I went to the circus with my juggling clubs. I watched a great juggling act – and then met up with the jugglers afterwards. One of them, Adel Badali, (top left in the picture) could speak good English and was keen to juggle with me.
Adel became one of my best friends in Egypt: An excellent circus performer and all round good guy. Adel and the rest of his troupe were trained by East German jugglers during the time when Egypt was flirting with communism. As a civil servant, working for the State Circus, Adel’s wage was ‘modest’. However we teamed up to do private shows around Cairo, improving our modest salaries. Adel is now head couch at a performing arts school in Cairo.
The first month in Egypt was spent learning Arabic and finding out more about the country. Kevin, Florence, Gill, Sahar (teacher) Jane and Stuart. Florence and Stuart not only worked for three years in Sohag, Middle Egypt but then went to Hungary for another three years and were last heard of in Vietnam…
Many Egyptian women are gorgeous including my good friend Ghada, my Egyptian-landlord’s daughter. She married Hassan, a knee doctor, and moved to Scotland. She is not really that pale, she has a wonderful olive complexion. This is traditional makeup for an Egyptian wedding.
Faith, one of my VSO colleagues, invited me to visit the orphanage where she worked in Cairo. A very different world from the opulence of the Marriott Hotel in Cairo. Note that the older woman has a tattoo on her chin.
And she can juggle! Tattoos and juggling skills. Not what you expect from an Egyptian woman running an orphanage.
This young woman loved my juggling – at least there is one person in the world!
Talking of juggling, I visited a village school in the delta and was asked to juggle for the children.
There were ‘only’ about 800 people watching. I was invited to the school by Ashraf, a waiter at a pizza restaurant in El Mansoura. He was also a teacher of English and French at the school. It is not easy to make ends meet in Egypt.
I gave English classes to 3 groups. Some of the children were so nervous they could barely talk. Ashraf is on the right. The regular teacher is at the back.
I spent two years working for ESPRC Mansoura. Here is the team: Amal, Sahar, Jeremy, David, Gamal, Sirvart, and Dr. Yehia. English for Specific Purposes Research Centre. I would love to have researched the best way to get a bunch of students, some books and a teacher together at the same time…
I lived in El Mansoura for two years. During that time I was visited by my sister and her daughters. Here is Ros on the rowing boat to cross the Dumyatta branch of the River Nile.
Here is Mohamed Shafei, one of the most knowledgeable divers in Egypt. I took my PADI open water diving certificate while in Sharm El Sheikh. Jacques Cousteau said the diving in this area is some of the best in the world.
This is the Egyptian Western Desert with Libya just 60km away. Amazingly, the beginning of the Sahara Desert. My bag fell off his bike and broke my water bottle. This left me with a dribble of water – and the water damaged the shutter on my camera (in the pre-digital era).
This is the Mediterranean coast, near Alexandria. Very strange to see cows on a beach but they seemed pretty happy there…
A pretty poor picture taken from a tower in the old town of Siwa, near the Libyan border. Siwa is a magical place, almost 3 days from the madness of Cairo.
Siwa is a small settlement, surrounded by thousands of date palms. There is also a large oasis which is saltwater. However in the middle of the oasis there is an island, in the middle of which is pool which is fed by a warm spring of fresh water. Isn’t nature wonderful?
A final photo of a palm tree. I hope things stay calm in Egypt so that I can go back and take some better quality photos.
I travelled to Egypt to work for VSO
For details on the Aswan dam, click here
Interested in diving in Sinai? Click here