Our next five days on our whirlwind tour through the Middle East and North Africa turned out to be just as eventful as the last. We continued to bond with Zeid on the drive to Aqaba, calling him ‘Ammu’, which is uncle in Arabic, and sharing plenty of laughs.
We arrived in Aqaba around 9pm still without any accommodation. As we pulled into Zeid and Claude’s accommodation, the Radisson Blu, Louis made an executive decision and booked us a couple of rooms there. Needless to say it was a huge step up from the modest accommodation we’ve been enjoying for the last week. The resort was vast, complete with three swimming pools and a beach front. It was the perfect location to set up and start sorting footage to prepare for our first video edit for the campaign.
Unfortunately, rather than enjoying one of three swimming pools, the diving platform in the sea, or the magnificent buffet breakfast, we all managed to contract variations of a stomach bug that sent Jake bed ridden, Louis to the toilet 12 times a day and Pro with amoebic dysentery. It took some persuasion to actually see the hotel doctor, but after a lengthy grope of the abdomen, the doctor concluded Pro had an ‘infestation’ of the intestines. This resulted in a large injection in the rear and and fistful of pills.
The third day into our stay Claude and Zeid set into motion the shipment of the Street Glide into Egypt. Claude would ride the bike onto the Ferry from Aqaba and we would take it directly to the Egyptian port town of Nuweiba. From there it would be ridden to Sharm el Sheik before going onto Cairo. The economy class lounge was packed. Local men were sprawled out on any available flat surface, remnants of food and drink scattered among them, and the toilet, kindly discovered by Juan, was unspeakable. Unsurprisingly Claude managed to wrangle us entry to the first class cabin. Not as plush as it’s name would suggest but compared to the cramped lounge that sat below it, it was more than welcome. We all slept for most of the hour and a half ride to Nuweiba, arriving at 2.00am. By the time we disembarked it was a good hour later.
We stayed in Nuweiba that night at a hotel called the Hilton, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an actual Hilton. Or maybe Hilton had forgotten they owned this one. Either way we were only there for one night before we travelled over the Sinai mountains to Sharm el Sheik. Mohammed and Omar from Egypt’s Harley Davidson branch came to meet us with a vehicle for us and our gear. We loaded up and got going to Sharm. Both Louis and Juan had been to Sharm before, but the rest of us were unprepared for the sight of hotel after hotel and resort after resort. After some wrong turnings we made it to the Four Seasons resort where we met up with the rest of the Harley Egypt team. Indji, who helps run the dealership, introduced us to Hazem Emam, a former Egyptian footballer who, going on the reactions of anyone who saw him, is very famous in these parts. We had a shoot with Hazem that evening before Pro and Jake went back to sort and edit.
The rest of our stay in Egypt kind of flew by. From Sharm we trekked all the way up the west coast of the Red Sea to Cairo. This mammoth journey took us through the deserts of Egypt where we got some stunning images and footage of the different riders on the bike. It also took us through several heavily guarded army checkpoints. Since the revolution the army have been in charge and it seems as though they are taking every precaution against any possible threat. Most of the checkpoints were a breeze but a couple seemed to take exception to some of our party and searched all of our gear. Whether it was down to Pro’s beard, Louis’ tattoos, or Juan’s carefree demeanour, we can never be sure.
We eventually made it to Cairo and crashed pretty much as soon as we got into our hotel. The traffic once we arrived in the city was like Paris and Milan on their worst days with the population of London trying to cross the roads at the same time. Luckily (?) the next day was an early start so we missed much of the Cairo traffic as we zipped over to Indji’s house to prepare for our visit to the Pyramids. We distributed ourselves between cars with our minimal gear so as to look as much like tourists as possible (not really an issue for Louis). We arrived to find out that they weren’t allowed to have the bike anywhere near the pyramids so we drove up without it to get some shots anyway. Despite the rush we managed to stop and try to take it all in. After another with photo-op with Hazem we made our way over to the dealership for a spot of lunch. I say spot, I mean 3 rounds of the most deliciously filling Egyptian food we had ever eaten. Bowls upon bowls of bean foul (pronounced fool), hoummous, falafel, meat pies, baba ganoush, and tabouleh just kept on coming. The hospitality of the Egypt team was incredible and they had even presented us with our own Egyptian names. Pro was Shaaraui, Jake – Hanny, Louis – Kareem and Juan – Mandouh.
That night we went for a final dinner with Claude and the Egyptian Harley dealership guys. As the bike has had to be flown back to the UK before it could continue to Romania, we have a ten day gap before we can rejoin the tour. We decided, because it worked out cheapest, and because we had already started to miss home, to come back to London for a week. So we had an emotional goodbye to everyone, in particular Claude. It is difficult to express in words just how important Claude was to us by the end of our time in the Middle East. Not only did he make sure the tour went smoothly, and that we got time to film and photograph, but he made us feel like family and looked out for us throughout. He has the warmest heart and the kindest soul and we are so grateful we got to meet him.