Two students in Egypt

Bruno Sandkühler

Shortly before, I had met Mr Faltas, a rich Egyptian: “If you ever come to Egypt, you are my guest”. Our Arabic professor Krückmann is enthusiastic: “You absolutely have to do that! The German ambassador in Cairo is a good friend of mine, he will help you there.”

We start calculating. Hitching-hiking to Genoa, living cheaply in Egypt, that should be possible. Decision made, we set off during the semester break.

The “Ege”, the Turkish ship, is simple, but the crew immediately takes us to their hearts and provides us with food that is actually not included in the price. But the best surprise is the class of girls returning to Cairo from their graduation trip to Barcelona, who raucously greet us two German students. On the three-day trip to Alexandria, we get the best introduction to Egyptian life imaginable, with all kinds of insider tips including the address of the German Protestant old people’s home, where you can live extremely cheaply. Nadia, one of the girls, speaks German, her mother is from Berlin. She and her friend Hedaya offer to act as our city guides.

On the third day, the Egyptian coast appears and a little later the hustle and bustle of Alexandria’s noisy port welcomes us. And sure enough, Mr Faltas’ chauffeur is there to take us to a hotel, because Faltas has unexpected guests, so there is no room in the house. But the car is at our disposal during our stay, we just need to tell him where we want to go. Among other things, this means that we can visit the war cemeteries of El-Alamein, where General Rommel, the Afrika Korps and Italian troops encountered the British in a murderous battle in 1942.

In Cairo, we make our introductory visit to Ambassador Pawelke and roam the city with Nadja and Hedaya before taking a dirt-cheap third-class train to Upper Egypt. At Baliana station we interrupt the journey to visit the temples of Abydos. I have to jump a few feet down from the carriage, and when I land my wallet, which had been in my back trouser pocket, is missing.

The train is just leaving. At the police station we only get a shrug of the shoulders until I get angry and shout: “In Germany the police would at least listen!!” Suddenly the mood changes. “Oh, so you’re Germans?” The officials had thought we were English. Now we are entertained, put up in the hotel and invited to dinner at the club where the town’s dignitaries dine. Every time one of the gentlemen leaves, a waiter comes with a tray on which are some banknotes. “The mayor is very sorry that this has happened to you ...”; “The chief of police is very sorry ...”; “The pharmacist is ...”. In the end I have more money than when I started, a call to the embassy leads to a new passport and we can continue our journey without any worries.

About the author: Dr Bruno Sandkühler is an Egyptologist and studied Romance and Middle Eastern studies in Florence, Perugia, Paris und Freiburg. He set up Marco Polo Travel with C-E Fischer and teaches at various Waldorf schools.