Murder on the Aswan Express
Updated: Jun 14
So before I dive into the grand story of the Egyptian sleeper train from Cairo to Aswan, I have to first concentrate a little tiny bit on the shower I had at the hotel before we boarded. As I mentioned in my previous blog, our tour guide, Mo, had managed to secure us a few rooms at the Oasis, so that we could all get cleaned up and get all the sand off of us!
It was probably the fastest AND most glorious shower I have ever had. After being caught in an afternoon's sandstorm, there was sand where sand should never go. There was sand where I don't think sand has ever been. It had been unbearably hot, we were all grimy and sticky... and sandy.
Simply put, there was sand everywhere. In our clothes, in our eyes, in our mouth, in our hair, stuck to our skin...
A shower was greatly appreciated.
There were about 7-8 of us assigned to each room and we all did our best to go as fast as we could. Speed shower. As soon as one person jumped out, it was GO TIME for the next. Get wet, lather up, rinse off, out... !!!
I think we actually managed to flood the bathroom floor.
Anyway, once we were nice and clean, and the sand had all been removed, we all piled back into the big bus. We were headed to catch the overnight train to Aswan.
So... does anyone else hear the words "Sleeper Train" and automatically assume;
~ Embarking on a timeless and unforgettable journey.
~ Stepping back in time.
~ Quintessential symbol of luxury.
~ Unique experience.
~ Falling asleep to the light rocking back and forth of the choo-choo.
What's the saying? When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.
Well... it's true.
The only thing I could take from the above list was 'unique experience'... as no one could deny that.
I knew from the itinerary that the sleeper train was part of the tour, but I hadn't spent much time reading reviews. I just concentrated on extravagance and refinement... and my brain wouldn't take me anywhere else. I envisioned the historical features of the Orient Express... so entirely my bad. Considering the higher scale of ratings for our tour hotels, I just naturally assumed the train would also score on the upper posh scale.
I was wrong.
Ahhh... how wrong I was.
We boarded... all of us were quite excited for the journey... and I think reality slapped all of us in the face, all at once.
As soon as I walked down the narrow hallway and into my sleeping compartment, I started to laugh uncontrollably. There was no other way to deal with it. Once I started laughing, it became increasingly more difficult to stop.
For lack of a better expression, you couldn't swing a dead cat in our cell. Our entire cubicle was probably no bigger than 1.5 metres wide and about 3 metres deep. Within this minuscule measurement, there was a top and bottom bunk. The bottom bunk functioned as two seats for the journey, with the bunk folded away until needed.
It was very cramped.
There was a cupboard door that opened up revealing a small mirror, a bubble-style sink and an electrical plug that I wouldn't challenge anyone to use. Both the mirrors and our compartment window had deteriorated with age and the water only slightly trickled out from the tap.
My favourites were the colourful buttons and switches that really seemed to serve no purpose. I must admit, I was coerced by my own curiosity to push them all... but much to my dismay, nothing happened. Nothing at all.
Everything you needed to properly function in our little train nook was stored away somewhere. The flimsy, metal ladder for the top bunk was kept under the passenger seats. The remarkably grubby food trays were hidden behind a decorative old rag, which substituted for a curtain, that's only real purpose was to hide the unwashed walls. It wasn't even dirty... so to speak, in the manner of disheveled... it was simply years & years & years of undeniable neglect... mixed with black soot and grease grime.
Someone get this train a Mr. Clean erase marker, stat!
A little tender loving care and a splash of colour would work wonders.
But... not my train...
The train attendant came around after dinner to fold out the bottom bunk. Due to my ongoing issues with my stupid knee, I requested the bottom bunk. The top bunk scared me too much to even attempt the upwards crawl. As we had two journeys aboard this rickity delight, we agreed that I would take the upper board on the next leg of the journey.
When I say 'board,' I fully mean 'board.' There was nothing 'bed-like' about these slab-panel cots, save for the blankets and bottom sheet, that I suspect don't spend much time in any industrial washing machine.
On voyages such as this though, it's easier to laugh than complain... So all any of us could really do was pull up the blankets, try to stay warm and do our best to sleep the night away.
Hmmm... I don't think I would go that far.
It definitely wasn't the best sleep I've ever had. The train was insufferably loud and shook uncontrollably throughout the night. Perhaps it was the poor quality of the tracks or the desert curls & curves, or possibly the engineer was overly fond of slamming on the breaks, but we were all frequently jerked awake.
Don't even get me started on the lavatory facilities.
Let's just say that any #1 or #2 goes down the hole... and onto the tracks.
Just try to weave luxury out of that information.
I dare you.
I made a Tik Tok video of the train trip...
I couldn't help it. This style of top notch screams out to be documented.
To be honest, I'm having a riot chronicling my journey with small videos. Seriously.
I love it.
Yes... yes... I'm a writer and that's truly what I adore doing... but video & photos are fun as well... and something different. My account is really beginning to get traction too! I already have almost 2000 followers and that number is increasing each and every day. So if you haven't already - start an account... if only to follow me! @mycrushontheworld ~ Do it!!
Our train feast was a gelatinous brown stew concoction served with a side of rice and vegetables. Inside my box of rice were two green peas. I can't make this up! Imagine how upset I might have been had I opened it up and discovered only one pea.
Most of us had purchased snacks prior to boarding, so although I tried to eat my meal, I was more interested in doing anything but. I don't like to think of myself as a picky eater, but I really am. If I get it into my head that it might possibly be as disgusting as it looks, not much will work to change my mind.
Trying to organize our night's lodging so that both of us could efficiently move around was impossible. Almost preposterous, actually. Taking one step forward was challenging enough, let alone with 3 large packs. It ended up being quite a nightmare.
I realized my MacBook charger was not with me.
My adapter was gone too.
I desperately searched through my bags... frantic. Trying to exercise patience, maintain my cool, yet search through every inch of my luggage in such cramped, congested conditions was certainly a challenge. A stressful situation I don't normally shine through. Simultaneously, my mind was screaming FREAK OUT and calm down...
I'd left it at the hotel...
I immediately called Mo and Bishoo (the other guide accompanying us) about it and they agreed to call the hotel as soon as possible. I knew exactly where I'd left it. I had taken it out of my computer bag with my adapter and left it sitting on the glass table, in the room where we had gone to shower prior to boarding the train.
I knew it was there. Sitting right there, waiting for me...
Even Simone, one of the Australian girls on our tour, had seen it.
Why am I such an idiot...?
I knew the alternative was much, much worse, as I'd had my computer stolen before... but still... SUCH an inconvenience.
The attendant woke us up early the next morning with another meal. Breakfast!
Every single carb-overload item on our tray was wrapped in plastic.
~ A piece of bread... which could really be categorized as toast, by default, only due to the staleness of it.
~ A croissant.
~ A slice of some style of sweet fruit bread.
~ A piece of Laughing Cow cheese.
~ A packet of thin jelly.
~ A small tube of squeeze cheese.
When we arrived in Aswan, we all disembarked... perhaps slightly grimier than we'd been when we'd boarded, despite our shower attempts the night before.
Was it luxury? Hard pass.
Was it elegance and sophistication? Nope.
Was it stepping back in time? Certainly...
Was it a unique experience? Damn straight, it was.
My charger and adapter?
Gone without a trace. The hotel informed the tour that nothing had been left in the room.
Only one other girl on our tour was traveling with a similar MacBook... and my luck, she was a pretentious 19 year old millennial, travelling on mommy's money.
When I first approached her about my predicament, with a genuine plea to "help a sister out", she was full of "I got you girl"... but that proved to only translate to nothing...
Turns out that my request for a brief charge was more than she was willing to give to assist a fellow traveller along. She turned almost prickly.
Was I disappointed? Absolutely.
Was I going to keep trying? Nope... Definitely not...
After her first very rude, loud and public decline, I decided it would be in my best interest to just allow my computer to die until I had the means to purchase another charger.
Ahhh... the people you meet along the way...
They say traveling isn't all about the sites, culture and food... it's also about those incredible individuals you meet along the way. These are the ones that you lean on for friendship and support, and that in turn, also lean on you. There are those that will go out of their way to help where help is needed, because we're a community. We need to be there for each other when times get tough.
I strive to be that person.
But... some people don't.
And that's cool.
All you can really do is wish them well and look the other way.
Anyways... I'm back now... fully charged up with a brand new $400 charger...
Time to catch up!