Day 3: New Dumyat – Port Said: Me? A spy?
Monday May 23, 2011, 81 km (50 miles) – Total so far: 289 km (180 miles)
In the morning I felt a bit better so got the bike ready for off. Some of the staff working at the hotel and in the building wanted a photo with me and the bike on their phones so I posed for a few of these. Few cycling tourers must pass this way so I guess I’m a bit of an oddity around here! I had a quick chat with 3 of the men in Arabic before leaving and they gave me 2 bottles of water for the road refusing any payment. The hospitality around these parts really was great.
I got a quick breakfast of 2 felafels at a nearby restaurant. The cooks here wanted their photo taken aswell so I ended up in the kitchen while waiting for the food. Once eaten I cycled the 8km out of town reaching the international highway again and set off for Port Said.
As I was taking some photos in an agricultural area a car pulled in down the road a bit in front of me. I put the camera back in my bag and pedalled on. Before I passed the car a man in a suit stepped out and flagged me down. He started shouting at me in Arabic, gestured about the camera and pointed to a factory far off in the distance. He then took out his phone and started repeating “Police, police!” It seemed this lad thought I was a spy!
I realised this could get very messy, very quickly if the police got involved. So I gestured for him to put the phone down and took out the camera. He kept the phone in his hand but I had his attention. I showed him the 2 photos I had taken. One looking back along the road in the other direction and one of the bicycle at the side of the road. This was the only one taken in the direction of the factory. He still seemed suspicious though and mentioned the police again. He called over 2 nearby farmers and told them what I had done but they didn’t seem to understand what was going on. I decided to act a bit outraged at his accusation in the hope that he would back down a bit. I raised my voice while showing him the 2 photos again and shouting “ROAD, BICYCLE, LA’A FACTORY” while pointing at the factory. Once he saw I was annoyed at him, he was taken aback and calmed down a bit. Now that he was a bit calmer I changed my tone again. I acted apologetic and assured him I would not take any more photos from now on. He seemed a bit more satisfied so I put my hand to my heart and shook the 3 mens hands apologising for my spy like actions! They seemed truly satisfied now and waved me off. If the man had spoken English it would have been pretty easy to get out of but the fact that he only spoke Arabic and was highly suspicious of me meant it took a bit of convincing for him not to call the police. He passed by me slowly a few minutes later, keeping an eye on me and then disappeared.
It was a ridiculous assumption to make but if the police had got involved I could have been questioned for quite a while. I’m sure that after explaining myself I would have got off ok but I had no intention of finding out.
Needless to say after this I didn’t take too many more photos that day. I put the head down and pushed on towards Port Said dodging road kill and debris at the side of the road. The last 30km into Port Said was along a causeway filled with massive factories. Each one was surrounded by high fences/walls and barbed wire. Most also had watch towers with armed guards along the perimeter. I arrived in Port Said early enough in the day and got a cheap room for 70LE in Hotel de la Poste. I was still feeling pretty sick so stuck to western food that evening in the hope it would improve soon.