Covering a walk from Ismailia to Port Said with the crew from Walk-pedia, Seif Bibars finds himself waking up at 4 AM on a Friday with enough anger to level a city block. Nevertheless, he straps on his Rockport shoes and hits the road. Little did he know, he was in for the adventure of a lifetime.
Nobody likes to wake up early, especially on a Friday morning. When I found out that I’d be covering a walk from Ismailia to Port Said, I was confused; who is doing this and, more importantly, why?! I soon find out that the two boys who are attempting this, Andrew Youssef and Milad Magdy, had already completed a walk from Cairo to Alexandria. Their startup, Walk-pedia, focuses on their adventures as they discover their own country by, literally, walking across it. When they announced to their friends that they wanted to walk from Cairo to Alex, everyone insisted they couldn't do it. So they took it upon themselves to rise to the challenge, defy what people thought, and walk the entire way to Alexandria. Crazy, I know. Who isn't in this day and age? This time around, they were attempting Ismailia to Port Said. And I was attempting it with them.
I cancelled my weekend plans and headed home at 8 PM to get a good night's sleep. At 5 AM on Friday morning, I was on the street trying to stop a taxi to get to the pick up point to meet Andrew and Milad. Grrr! I had a bone or two to pick with these guys about this whole idea and why it had to be on a Friday morning. Why couldn’t it have been on a Wednesday, or a Monday, or any other day that I already have to get up early for work? Also, why did they take up that stupid dare in the first place? Also, where is the weakest point in a person’s body that I can strike and cause a fatality with one blow? So many questions…
As soon as I met the boys, they saw the look on my face and, before I could say a word, they handed me my new Rockport shoes. They were a grey pair of hiking boots - the Union Street 2 - with a camouflage print that gave me a sudden sense of importance, like I was about to embark on a mission. When I put them on, the disdain turned into happiness - such comfort and design! It was like walking on a cloud - a 75 km cloud stretching all the way from Ismailia to Port Said, that is. We put on our new Rockports and headed to the starting line, ahead of us a stretch of highway dotted with different crops growing peacefully, making for scenery unlike any other I had ever seen before. Give me this scenery over a club night on any weekend!
Over the course of the walk, we got to witness a quirky local craftsman making chairs and other crafts by hand; we happened by a mango orchard, a tangerine grove, and we begged for bananas from a farmer; we were invited for tea by a local landowner who was very amused by the idea of our walk. We walked and walked, and walked some more; after walking for around 25 km, I couldn’t go on. I was out of breath, stumbling to make it past the 25 km mark. I never did, for the record. I totally fell facedown into a ditch, and was abandoned by the two boys, who decided to walk on without me. So much for leave no man behind, huh boys?
I woke up alone on the side of the road, smelling like cat pee. Two sketchy fellas were trying to steal my boots, but I managed to escape into the foliage, seeking refuge in an abandoned hut. After regaining my breath, I looked up the boys' location via GPS and planned my route. I hitched a ride with Maged, a Nubian driver on his way to deliver a shipment of diamonds to a jewellery shop. He was heavily armed, so I knew that my boots were safe. Whew. He took me to the town of El-Qantarah, which is 30 km before our final destination. I spotted Andrew and Milad, who were still walking happily along the highway, and they decided to call it a day and search for a place to stay since the sun was setting. They marked the spot that they would start at when the sun rose next morning.
I made my way to Port Said, a town filled with history. Still with my new Nubian friend, Maged, we toured the city that he knows like the back of his hand. He showed me some sites and then we headed off to one of the city's oldest restaurants, Gianola. The seafood was to die for; we ordered everything, and ate it all. At this point, it was around 8 PM and temperature was dropping, fast - by the time we found a hotel, it was three degrees outside! We slept like babies, and my heavily armed new friend was the cherry on top.
The next day I caught up with the boys, who woke up and started walking at 5 AM. We were into another day of tedious walking! We arrived at a huge wall hiding the canal behind it. All along the wall were military personnel, alarmed by us walking in the middle of nowhere. They saw the camouflage print on our boots, related to us, and allowed us to pass, but made it clear that no footage was to be taken, or else they would be doing the shooting. This stretch of highway was desolate, with no signs of life – just military personnel dotted along the way.
As we were approaching Port Said, the temperature dropped dramatically; we took refuge in a small deserted building. We found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, and trying to find a way to push through the harsh weather. It took a while for the sun, which was hiding behind a huge cloud, to re-accompany us for the rest of the journey. With the sun's rays on our backs, we re-gained our strength and pushed on to Port Said. Upon arrival, fans and followers of Andrew and Milad welcomed us and walked us through Port Said, and invited us for dinner and to sleep over at one of their homes.
At the end, my reservations turned out to be false. I got to try Rockport’s Union Street 2, which were both comfortable and sturdy at the same time – the best of both worlds. The warm welcome, great food, and beautiful colonial architecture of the city puts Port Said in a special place in my heart. It is a beautiful city worth visiting. Overall, it was an amazing adventure that took me through Egypt’s beautiful countryside, and into the heart of one of its hidden gems: Port Said.