The Final 21 hours: The Last Train Ride

The Final 21 hours: The Last Train Ride

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The Final 21 hours: The Last Train Ride

Morning comes quicker than we would have liked, but it is
time to catch the train. Dr. Sarhat once more insists that we stay with him, but
our minds were made and we are taking the early morning economy train, which he
warned us was not a good idea and we should take the more expensive first class
train. He made sure to let us know there was no air conditioning¸ and that the
train would be full of farmers and uncivilized people; despite his warnings we
felt like that was the least of our worries,  we just wanted to get back to
Luxor. He assured us if we had to come back or whatever are needs were to call
him and he would provide anything he could.  We left him three hundred Egyptian
pounds in a drawer, which isn’t very much but it goes a long way in Egypt. It
was the most we had to offer him for all his generosity. He would later find
this out when regained access to the internet, which the government had shut
off.

 

Little did we know what would lie ahead of us. The train
ride turned out to be one of the most interesting moments of my life without a
doubt. Maybe because what was supposed to be a twelve hour train ride maximum of
viewing the country side turned out to be twenty one hours of riding a train
that seemed like it was never going to get to its final destination; which is
probably the reason why the song   "runaway train" by soul asylum started to
enter my mind. There were would countless stops in the middle of the tracks for
no apparent reason, that lasted anywhere between ten minutes to one and a half
hours at a time, but the real chaotic moment would happen when we arrived in
Cairo.

 

As we boarded the train and found our seats it was
practically empty. The seats we arranged in typical train fashion, four seats
two side by side facing each other. The seats we took were by a broken window
and where we were sitting smelt like urine.

 

As we were getting comfortable on a near empty train, ready
to enjoy a calm and relaxing twelve hour train back to Luxor, the people next to
us instantly inform us if we gave them our money then they would purchase our
tickets for us. At first we half considered it because we had not purchased any
tickets yet and we were not sure how to go about that process. However they were
the sketchiest people we had ever seen on Earth and declined their help. At the
same time this was happening, the rudest man we had ever met comes right up to
us and tries to talk to us. I can’t remember exactly how he tried to start a
conversation with us but within thirty seconds he just started yelling at the
top of his lungs for five minutes at us. I know initially we had politely
acknowledged his presence but he really had no reason to talk to us, I guess he
didn’t take kindly to it. Eventually he leaves and at the same time the people
who tried to say they would use our money to buy our tickets get up and leave
the train. Later on during the ride the ticket man would come and we were able
to purchase our tickets. After that bit of excitement the train starts up and we
are ready to get to Luxor.

 

The two hours it should have taken to get to Cairo took
five and then that’s when it got crazy. The train became completely packed with
people. So full in fact that those who couldn’t fit into the train because there
was literally no standing place left opted to ride on the roof. The amount of
people desperate to get on that train to leave Cairo was a sight to see.

 

During those twenty one hours it was not the same kind of
excitement and adventure we had experienced in the previous three days or so.
There were no dogs chasing us or mobs standing outside a train station, just a
lot of poor people want to go to safe place. It was more of a realization of
everything that was happening in Egypt

 

There were entire families packed into the four seats
facing each other children sitting on top of the luggage that was sitting on top
of their parents. In that time seeing everyone packed on to the train it felt
like in some ways we lived in a crowded village and although I never spoke to
those people in a way I got to know them as I sat there quietly and just
observed everything on the train. It was nothing I had ever seen in my
life.

 

Every four or five hours the train car would take on a new
shape. People would get off, new people would get on and people standing up
would sit in the empty seats. It was almost as if during that time of transition
I would be saying bye to old neighbours as new ones moved in to their new seats.
For me that was probably what made the train ride bearable as odd as that might
sound, but the constant change in my environment made it seem like I was some
place new during that period of transition of people.

 

During those twenty one hours we became acquainted with a
few but very kind and generous people. Because there were only three of us there
was an empty seat that was available for anyone to sit in. One moment that I
still remember particularly well was when people were hurriedly trying to board
the train.  A man who faced me from his seat would simply just look at me when
someone passed by trying sit on our fourth seat he would shake his head simply
meaning don’t let that person sit there. Finally when an old man came by he
nodded his head yes that old man would sit with. He ended up sitting with us for
hours. In fact like the man who made sure the right person was sitting beside
the old man would also take very good care of us. Constantly he would offer us
food and water, for the longest time we would decline thinking he would expect
something in return, which is usually the case when someone tries to offer you
something there. Eventually he broke us and we accepted his
offerings

 

That fourth seat would become our saving grace in some
ways. It always turned out that the right person would sit beside us, or it
seemed that the most caring people I had ever met would sit there to make sure
we would be okay. Those people always offered us food; they even offered to buy
us food. To be truthful between the three of us, we probably had close to one
thousand dollars on hand, which literally made us richer than practically all
the people on train combined. However, the people who lacked richness in wealth
that we encountered had the richest hearts one could ever
imagine.

 

As time passed and morning became night we were finally
nearing Luxor. By this point the train was near empty now and, colder than
imaginable. We put on everything we could to keep us warm. It would be a lie to
say we had kept our composure the whole time. In fact by this point we were
fully exhausted and just out right giggly, and perhaps near the point of
insanity. We had witnessed a lot during those twenty one hours on the train. I
had become humbled and enlightened by all the day’s events. How often do you
read about something like this in a land that feels so distant but can never
fully understand it?  Well I got to live it and during that moment. During the
train ride Canada seemed like a land so distant and that train was my
reality.   Just when we thought we had seen and experienced a lifetime
of everything on the train from the creepiest men, to the most humble and
noblest of people I will have ever met and not ever know their names, to the
poverty that made you wonder what was going on in the world, the next moment
would we encountered would sum up the entire day and possibly our crazy
adventures. We were sitting pretty much near the back of our car which was well
lit in comparison to the front that was essentially pitch black with no
lighting. As we were looking toward the front we could faintly see someone
walking towards us carrying an object. Due to the poor lighting and our tired
eyes we couldn’t make it out at first. As the man neared us and entered into the
light we saw that he was literally carrying a KITCHEN SINK in his arms past us
into the next train car. We all just looked at each other and thought did we
actually just see that. Yes in fact in those twenty one hours on our train ride
back to Luxor, we had in fact managed to see everything including the kitchen
sink.

 

Needless to say although this is something I would ever
want to do again by choice, I am glad I got to spend that time on the train, as
I became privileged to see a world we all hear about, but never see or
experience and at no point on that train ride did I think I didn’t deserve to be
there.
  Article Info
Created: Apr 7 2012 at 06:58:56 PM
Updated: Apr 7 2012 at 06:58:56 PM
Category: Travel
Language: English

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