Words: Arpi Kharcherian ǀ Photos & Video: Cross Egypt Challenge
Scooter lovers from the four corners of the world converged in Egypt to take part in the third season of the Cross Egypt Challenge. This one-of-a-kind cross-country scooter rally took off on Friday, 8 November 2013 and the adventure lasted for nine days.
Photos credit: Cross Egypt Challenge
This year’s team included 45 experienced scooter riders from 12 different countries, and amongst them were six brave ladies. In addition to the 15 Egyptians, there were participants from Brazil, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Brunei, Greece, Romania, and New Zealand, as well as two riders from South Africa.
The Cross Egypt Challenge 2013 kicked off from Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria. This city, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, has been associated since the days of yore with enlightenment, culture, and civilisation. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the symbol of modern and ancient Alexandria, was chosen as the starting point for the challenge.
Early Friday morning, family, friends, and fans gathered in front of the library to see this year’s Cross Egypt Challenge team set off on their adventure. Leaving the Bibliotheca Alexandrina behind them, they headed towards the Citadel of Qaitbay, another landmark of the city and believed to have been built from the remains of the legendary Lighthouse of Alexandria. Alexandrians driving by or walking on the city’s Corniche that morning were pleasantly surprised by the sight and sound of two hundred scooters and motorbikes making their way through the city. From Qaitbay, the riders drove to Alexandria's city centre, where the official launch ceremony took place. This was attended by the UN Goodwill Ambassador Mahmoud Qabeel, government officials, and other celebrities.
The riders’ first stop was in the Sixth of October city, a modern extension of Egypt’s capital Cairo, which includes industrial, educational, media, and residential facilities. They had a much-needed rest in anticipation of the longest leg of their journey on the following day, a 365 km ride to Bahariya Oasis. However, after this long, tough ride, participants were rewarded with their first 'desert lunch' and they got to experience true Egyptian hospitality.
The following day, riders covered about 185 km to Farafra Oasis, in the New Valley Governorate. Farafra is known for its white desert, which gets its colour from chalk rock formations that were created as a result of occasional sandstorms in the area. Farafra is also known for its revitalising hot springs that are popular with tourists and locals alike. The next stop was Dakhla Oasis, or the inner oasis. Dakhla, about 275 km away from Farafra, lies between Farafra and Kharga Oasis, or the outer oasis. Once there, participants visited the fortified Islamic town of Al Qasr, which was built in the 12th century on the remains of a Roman era settlement.
Day five saw the riders set out for Kharga Oasis, where they were welcomed by the Governor. A celebration was also held in their honor and included a presentation of traditional 'wahati' music and dancing. Everyone camped in a small oasis called Baris, near Kharga. It is thought that the name Baris means the House of Isis, the goddess of fertility.
The next morning, the team said goodbye to the western desert as They turned their scooters in the direction of the city of Luxor, located on the Nile River. After a tough journey covering 350 km, they finally reached their destination. Luxor is known for its ancient temples and pleasing scenery, and here they were greeted by the Governor of Luxor at the Karnak Temple, nicknamed 'the world’s largest open-air museum'. Riders were treated to a show that featured traditional Egyptian music and dance. After a hectic few days in the desert, the team enjoyed a relaxing evening.
Day seven saw the riders make their way east from Luxor towards the Red Sea, and the resort city of Hurghada. This coastal city is a favorite among tourists because of its posh hotels, sunny beaches, and laid-back lifestyle. The cool, blue waters were far too tempting for some of the riders who couldn't resist taking a dip, while the others took to the streets to explore the city.
Everyone was up early on Friday morning, as they prepared for the next leg of their journey. Riding north to the coastal resort city, AinSokhna, was picturesque but perilous. The road was narrow and it twisted and turned sharply. However, when you looked to the one side you could see the beautiful red hills and on the other side was the azure waters of the Red Sea. After a six-hour trip, they finally reached their destination and although weary, they did not want to rest knowing that their journey was almost nearing the end.
On the ninth and final day, there was only a small distance to cover between AinSokhna and Cairo. This was an easy feat for the daring riders, who had by now experienced riding through sun, rain, sand, and fog. But on reaching Cairo, they were in no hurry to end their journey. Instead, they tried to take in every sight, sound, and smell as they slowly made their way to the Great Pyramids of Giza, where they were reunited with friends and family.
Gazing in amazement at the giant structures before them, the realisation that they had successfully completed the challenge began to sink in. Mário César Mantovani, from Brazil, remarked, “The Cross Egypt Challenge was so well organised that when I stopped my scooter in front of the Great Pyramids, it read 2,400 km exactly.” Mission accomplished!
Photos credit: Cross Egypt Challenge
The organisers of the Cross Egypt Challenge try to offer riders something new every year. The official spokesperson of the challenge, Ahmad Elzoghby, who is an avid scooter rider, explains, “Our focus is to offer scooter lovers a chance to experience Egypt like never before. Each year we carefully design new routes that are both adventurous and challenging. There are places we visit that many Egyptians don’t even know about.” It seems that the formula is working because the event has seen exponential growth in the number of applicants, participants, and even followers on social media. One of the riders of Cross Egypt Challenge 2013, Maxine Featherstonhaugh from Canada, writes, “There is so much more to this country than I ever could have imagined. So happy to have been able to share the experience with the amazing people we met and who have become friends for life. Thank you everyone for the joy, thank you Cross Egypt Challenge for the experience and thank you Egypt! You are incredible!”
Cross Egypt Challenge trailer 2012
South Africans Ahmed Johnson and Pierre Plessis were equally impressed by the friendly people, great hospitality, Egypt’s temperate climate, and the vastness of the deserts and coasts. Johnson’s favorite spot was the White Desert, and in contrast to the Black Desert he found it to be breathtaking, like a “Moonscape with its mushroom-shaped rocks.” According to Johnson, “Cross Egypt Challenge is a trip I would recommend to all adventure-crazy motorcyclists. Doing this trip on a 150cc scooter adds to the fun.” He added, “The challenge allows one to experience the country’s beauty, its people, and the culture on two wheels.” Johnson was so impressed by the professional organisation and service provided by organisers that he has already signed up for next year’s event.
So if you are looking for an adventure and the freedom that comes with travelling on two wheels, then don't miss next year's event.
To find out more about Cross Egypt Challenge and see exclusive photos of this year’s challenge, visit their Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/CrossEgyptChallenge or their website: www.crossegyptchallenge.com