A month in The Land of the Pharaohs

Steve Vickers

Steve Vickers was at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt in 2019 as a TV commentator, and as a reporter for Capitalk 100.4 FM and for Star FM. He takes us through his month in the Land of Pharaohs. 

In the commentators box in Alexandria

One of the joys of being a sports reporter is that it can open doors to a lot of travel, and my work for the BBC, SuperSport and other organisations has allowed me to visit 18 African countries. What a privilege. The demands of work can however be so great that there can be very little time for tourism. It just means I have  to use the time wisely. As I was working as a TV commentator for AFCON, the first two weeks saw me either at the stadium or largely confined to my hotel room, preparing, researching and learning how to pronounce the names of the players from Madagascar and Burundi – as I happened to be covering the group that had those two teams – the two most tongue-twisting in Africa!

I quickly learnt that the traffic in Egypt is extremely heavy, with drivers swerving one way and the other along eight-lane carriageways in Formula One style! And there can be traffic jams even at 3am! What is wonderful though is that despite the language barrier, the warm, friendly smiles from the locals said so much.

Alexandria

After the first two weeks things became a little easier, and there were fewer games to cover. That gave me a chance to have a day out in Alexandria, where I was based, by the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea. The standout attraction there is the Bibliotheca Alexandria – the greatest centre of learning in the ancient world, established in 283BC, and at one stage having a copy of almost every book in the world at the time. A new Bibliotheca opened in 2002 near the original site – a vast and ultra-modern building. It’s the world’s largest library in terms of reading area, with space for 2500 people. Amazingly, one of the huge walls is made with Zimbabwean granite. Apparently a whole year’s supply of Mutoko black granite was used.

Bibliotheca Alexandria

Another highlight was an evening out with a BBC colleague after a match. We went to a fresh-fish restaurant overlooking the harbour and then for a long walk along the seafront. Even at 130am children were swimming in the sea, and cafes were full. The heat means that there is little difference between day and night in Egypt, as the days can be so hot. 

Cairo

When the tournament was at quarter-finals stage, I headed to Cairo – while temperatures were in the low 30s in Alexandria, with a sea breeze, Cairo was stiflingly hot, going above 40 degrees some days. I had two days where I could take in the attractions – and the top two attractions are pretty clear – the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. The Giza Pyramids are on the outskirts of the city and they offer a very touristy but totally memorable experience. My two colleagues and I opted to go across the sands on camels, and it didn’t disappoint. Embarrassingly, our main objective was to get to the viewpoint that allows for superb selfies rather than to delve deep into the history! It is possible to enter the staggering structures and find out more about their astonishing construction.

Camel riding

I visited the Egyptian Museum with Warriors fan Alvin “Aluvah” Zhakata, who had by then completed his 44-day road trip from Cape to Cairo. I decided to splash out on a tour guide, and it was well worth it for us as she told us all about the Mummies and King Tut. The mummified blackened bodies of Pharaohs and their wives from around 3000 years ago are absolutely fascinating to see, and they still have teeth, fingernails, toenails and some have hair.

The large section devoted to the treasures of King Tutankhamun left me weak at the knees. His 11-kilogramme death mask is considered by many to be the most beautiful object in the world. He was buried in a solid gold coffin of 110 kg, and, like Russian dolls, this went inside three more coffins and then four gold-covered boxes.

Other popular destinations in Egypt are Sharm-El-Sheikh for beach-goers, the Red Sea and the Valley of the Kings. A country of ancient civilisation that has much for visitors to see.

Images provided by Steve Vickers

Copyright : Ndeipi Magazine Issue 112

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