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Road Notes From Egypt 

By Elvis Tah

Here is what was left over from Echoes From The Nile last year. Where did I end? Oh, yes, the Pyramids at Giza! For the common Egyptian, it seems the world ends at the territorial boundaries of their country. They don’t bother to know about other countries in the world. They appear to be very contented with the food self sufficiency and political stability that reigns in the country. Apparently, only educated Egyptians know about other countries in the world, especially the eastern and southern African countries. From my reading, Egyptians are not crazy about ‘bush falling’ in search of greener pastures. They consider their country an Eldorado.

Throughout my stay in Egypt, I never witnessed a second of power outage. All streetlights come on at exactly 5 pm and go off at 6:30 am. You can’t see cables or electrical lines like one would find in Cameroon. All electrical, telephone and pipelines are underground. When I think of the numerous sources of water and waterfalls found in Cameroon and the fact that we can’t have a steady supply of electricity compared to a country like Egypt with one main river, but with constant supply of electricity, it challenges my imagination.

I was in a cab, heading for a trade fair at a place called Attaba. When we got to a square which is usually characterised by traffic congestion, I saw a policeman in the middle of the road, with whistle on his mouth and white gloves on hands, conducting and ensuring smooth traffic. I noticed that the policeman was only concerned about the movement of vehicles; he never walked to the drivers to demand for documents or collect "500 Egyptian pounds".

I enquired from our driver if policemen also inspect car documents and what will happen if they discovered that a driver’s documents are not in order. He told me policemen neither check documents on the highway nor take bribes. He said that their duty is to decongest the traffic and to maintain order; that any payment concerning a vehicle is done at a particular office and a receipt is issued, not to an individual on the highway. He said policemen have no right to commandeer a vehicle for one reason or the other.

He enquired to know about the case of Cameroon and I told him policemen always stop vehicles to check the car documents, driver’s license and passengers’ identity cards. He sought to know what would happen to anybody who did not have the required documents. In order not to omit to the Egyptian driver what ‘Cameroonian policemen do best’, I just laughed and told him it is compulsory for drivers to have all those items including insurance policy.

At Last, I Found Beer In Egypt

After spending a period of divorce with beer in Egypt due to its scarcity, I went to the Cameroonian Embassy in Cairo to watch the match between Cameroon and Morocco with my compatriots. The match was a galvanizing force that pulled all Cameroonians in Egypt together. Both Anglophones and Francophone Cameroonians sat together in communion and we were thinking Cameroonian; there was no Anglophone/francophone divide. This gathering afforded us the opportunity to savour Cameroonian beer of different brands and feel at home again. We watched the match "a la Camerounaise", quaffing.

When Achille Webo netted the opener, we cried out in excitement and ran out into the streets. On that same evening, Egypt was about to play a World Cup qualification match with Algeria in Cairo. When the Egyptians who were waiting for their match heard us shouting, they too joined us in the jubilation, thinking that it had been their derby and that they had scored. One of them asked me whether it was their Zagi or Zidane who scored and I told him it was Webo; that it was Cameroon versus Morocco. The guys immediately left us in disappointment and went back to their activities.

Football And Patriotism

The Egyptians are very patriotic when it comes to supporting their national team. If you are foreigner, you have to be very careful the way you run your mouth concerning their national team. They want to see your full support of their team if not you are considered an enemy. On the eve of the match pitting Egypt and Algeria, Egyptian flags were hung everywhere in Cairo; all the streets, houses and cars. As I walked the street, everybody; men, women and children all had a piece of the flag wrapped on their heads.

I was forced to buy a flag and join the band wagon in order not to be considered an adversary. When some of my Egyptian friends saw me with the Egyptian flag, they were ecstatic. They said, "Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, good football!" 

D Day came, and there was a lot of excitement in Cairo when Egypt defeated Algeria, giving them a glimmer of hope for the World Cup. The frenzy that characterized Egypt turned sour when they were beaten by Algeria in Sudan, squandering their chances for the soccer jamboree in South Africa this year.

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