From Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city, I make a run for Cairo. Like with Khartoum, I have no desire to be there, but the fates will it. My jumbo-sized passport has no more space left for visas and to start the ball-rolling on a new one I must first visit the British Embassy in the capital.
The trainline, one of the few I’ve been able to utilise in 10 months of travel, follows the course of the Nile north. The most sensible train for me to catch was the 7am express, taking 14 hours. The 7am train did not run, and I’m told to get the one at 10am, which arrives at 12.15. The Nile sits on my left with a thin belt of vivid green that sometimes is cut in two by the line. Beyond that desert.
At 10pm I’m shaken from sleep and turfed out of first one seat and then another. I have a ticket, but no seat reservation, and the train is full. I spend the next five and a half hours in the vestibule at the end of the carriage, used by the smokers. I either stand or sit among the cigarette butts and other rubbish on a sheet of newspaper given to me by someone in a similar position. I reach the stage of falling asleep on my feet, my knees buckling before I catch myself.
I recover a little by sleeping an hour on a bench on a platform at Cairo’s Ramses station, before heading for the embassy.