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The Nile Trial

The Endurance Rally Association is organising a 15-day rally through Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, Leaving Carthage on January 26th, 2009, and arriving at El Gouna on the Red Sea on February 9th.

The route will be similar in style the Peking to Paris with optional Time-Trials for those seeking a more testing option. For those with a more relaxed approach almost the entire route can be completed on good tarmac roads. The course crosses the Mediterranean to Tunisia, drives through some of the stunning Tunisia countryside via the extensive Roman ruins of Carthage, to the northern border of Libya, and drives the coast-road to Tobruk, Benghazi, and on to Egypt and El Alamein. The route then drives from the Pyramids in Cairo to the Red Sea coast before heading inland to the Nile and Luxor before returning to the exclusive Red Sea resort, El Gouna, for the finish.

It’s a route that will take in many evocative sights brimming with history – remote roads that provide us with a chance to enjoy the company of vintage and classic car enthusiasts with some winter sunshine. Get your time-card stamped in the shadow of the pyramids!

There will be categories for pre-1920 model-types, pre-1941 model-types, and pre-1968 model types, (similar to the Peking to Paris) with medals to be won on optional Time Trials. This is largely touring in nature with competition that is optional – decide on the day if you want to have a bash and win individual medals. The timing and the course is being designed to be practical and feasible for a pre-war car, with rest-stops that place an emphasis on the social side of historic-rallying.

It’s July and the daytime temperature is over 40 degrees here in Luxor on the edge of the Nile. It will be much cooler when the Nile-Trial brings us here from Carthage next February making this event a perfect escape from the cold of a European winter.

As we drink a beer or two in a shaded corner of the Old Winter Palace hotel perhaps it’s a good time to think back over the route that has brought us here.

Most recent in our minds is two days in the frenzy of Cairo. Our time there was spent meeting with the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt. At an excellent dinner hosted for us by Ramzy Zaklama of the ATCE he was able to tell us of his and the club’s enthusiasm for the event. It is obvious that everything is being done to make the rally welcome on its Egyptian leg.

As we criss-crossed the city from meeting to meeting we quickly learned the driving techniques required to survive but suspect that Nile-Trial competitors will not be sorry that our direct route into and away from our hotel close to the great Pyramids of Giza avoids the city centre. Fortunately rally departure day from Cairo will be on Friday, a non-work day in Egypt, when the roads are very much quieter than normal. After 30kms the city suddenly ends and once more we were on the open road to our lunch halt at a remarkable Monastery nestling in the rugged landscape.

Casting our minds further back it was over two weeks ago when we arrived in Tunis after the ferry crossing from Marseilles. Entering Tunisia much easier than we remember from previous events here with the formalities being quickly completed during the voyage.

Once in Tunisia the next three days were spent bringing together our plans for the Carthage start and on via Kairouan to the Libyan border locating the best roads to challenge the rally minded while offering an easier option for those who might want a gentler approach.

Then came our day to enter Libya. Kim spent a week in Libya earlier in the year but this was our first time arriving by car. With excellent local help we soon had a couple of paperwork anomalies sorted and were on the road with our new number plates attached to the first overnight in Sabratha.

Sabratha, like Leptis Magna, is one of many remarkable historic sites the event will visit, where there will be plenty of time to explore and marvel at what the ancient civilisations created in this part of North Africa.

Onward via Benghazi towards Tobruk and the region where so many famous battles were fought during World War II. Time to reflect in the remarkable dignity of the beautifully maintained Knightsbridge Cemetery near Tobruk.

On a practical note be warned that Libyan drivers are fast and unpredictable. It is not unusual to encounter oncoming traffic on a dual carriageway, and other similar antics, but the standard of alertness seems high and it’s a comfort to know that in this alcohol free country the other driver will not be under the influence, and…. relish the fact that petrol is currently 35-40 pence a GALLON. Without fail the Libyan people we met were friendly and courteous without any inclination to hassle or bother us. Enjoy your Libyan motoring experience.

Finally we reached Egypt to be greeted by new friends bearing essential supplies…. a cool-box full of ice-cold beer.

Not too far to go on the first day in Egypt before reaching Marsa Matrouh and the opportunity of a rest and a cool beer in the comfortable seaside hotel or perhaps a visit to Rommel’s bunker for those that wish to extend the WWII theme. Next day as we approached Alexandria and the well presented WWII museum of El-Alemein we conjure pictures of John Mills and Sylvia Syms in Ice Cold in Alex.

Our second Egyptian day ends where our notes began as we found ourselves in a Cairo traffic jam but with the windscreen view filled by the majestic sight of the Pyramids. We were just making a comparison to the M25 when a small gap opened infront and we were off again. There is nothing to compare with driving in Cairo.

There will be a rest day in Cairo with time to catch up on the laundry or to carry out a little car maintenance. Maybe a visit to the Pyramids or perhaps the Cairo Museum that is bursting with antiquities… the choice will be yours.

Next day it is back to business with a spectacular restart and photo opportunity beside the great Pyramids. This day will end beside the Red Sea before our route returns inland to Luxor, The Valley of the Kings and the romance of the Nile.

We still have another couple of days work to do before completing the route survey and returning to England but it looks as though the Nile-Trial will be a great adventure.

The Nile Trial  – Route Itinerary

Day and DateRouteCountryKms
24th JanSatFerry: Marseille to Tunis
25th JanSunTunis: Sightseeing and preparation
Day 126th JanMonCarthage to KairouanTunisia322
Day 227th JanTueKairouan to TataouineTunisia483
Day 328th JanWedTataouine to SabrathaTunisia / Libya219
Day 429th JanThuSabratha to MisrathaLibya304
Day 530th JanFriMisratha to SirtLibya272
Day 631st JanSatSirt to BenghaziLibya573
Day 71st FebSunBenghazi to ApolloniaLibya271
Day 82nd FebMonApollonia to TobrukLibya242
Day 93rd FebTueTobruk to Marsa MatruhLibya / Egypt364
Day 104th FebWedMarsa Matruh to CairoEgypt474
Day 115th FebThuCairo – Rest Day and sightseeing
Day 126th FebFriCairo to Soma BayEgypt507
Day 137th FebSatSoma Bay to LuxorEgypt303
Day 148th FebSunLuxor – Rest Day and sightseeing
Day 159th FebMonLuxor to El GounaEgypt401
10th FebTueEl Gouna: Prizegiving and homeward preparation4735 kms
Reporting from Misrata, Libya at the end of Day Four Report from Benghazi at the end of Day Six Reporting from Marsa Matruh, Egypt at the end of Day Nine. Report from Marsa Matruh, Egypt Reporting from Cairo at the end of Day Ten Day Twelve – Cairo to Soma Bay Day Thirteen – Soma Bay to Luxor Reporting from El Gouna at the end of Day Fifteen The Nile Trial – Questions

Rally Reports

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