Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nile Delta March 19-21

Train to Alexandria:
Mini van to the main Cairo railroad station. Busy place—even on a national holiday. All the trains look very worn on the outside. Inside of our train (first class) is in great shape.

Riding through Cairo on the train we notice all the buildings look worn on the outside. We're guessing the heat, sun and sand are hard on the exterior of things here. Lots of satellite dishes on every high rise. According to our guide, everyone in the building has their own

Train goes through the agricultural Nile delta. The agriculture seems to be all done by had and is very intense. Only walking paths (if any paths) between fields. All work seems to be done by hand. Land is very flat and only a couple feet above the level of the river. Large irrigation canal parallels the railroad for a while. Lots of small gas powered pumps getting water to the fields. Lots of small irrigation canals.
The train is nonstop to Alexandria. Has the right-of-way. Its speed seems to be faster than the autos on the 4 lane divided motorway that parallels it most of the way. We go a little slower through towns and when we get into Alexandria—sometimes slowing to a crawl in Alexandria. Two and a half hours to Alexandria (about 220 kilometers.)

Bus Back to Cairo:
On the bus ride back to Cairo, we took the desert road—a four lane divided highway. Agriculture here is by irrigation from wells. It isn't as intense as in the delta—the land just isn't as fertile. It is mainly sand. We actually see tractors--the work isn't done by hand here. Here the irrigation seems to be primarily by large moving sprinkler system (the kind you see in Western Minnesota and the other prairie states).

See our first pigeon houses. Silo like structures with lots of holes and a curved top. Used to raise pigeons for food.

Delta from the air (update):
It is clear when we leave Cairo for home. Flying over the delta we see a maze of irrigation canals. Very green landscape. It does look like about 10 percent of the delta is taken by small, medium and large towns/cities. According to our guide, one of the problems Egypt is facing is that the increasing urbanization of Egypt is taking very good farm land out of production.

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