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Night Train to Luxor

Updated on March 14, 2019

The Disorient Express.....

The Night Train to Luxor may sound like the title of a 1940's film noir, but it was actually the train I took from Cairo one evening in September 2010, to board a boat to sail me down the Nile to Aswan.

I'm pleased to say it wasn't "Death on the Nile", but it certainly was "Constipation in the Compartment".

I know it doesn't have the same ring as Agatha Christie's famous novel, (more like Murder on the Disorientating Express) but travelling overnight on an Egyptian sleeper is akin to losing a loved one - the loved one in question being a laxative.

If a murder took place it would have been me strangling the porter whilst Hercule Poirot looked on redundantly, because I would have proudly admitted my guilt.

A Great Train Journey?

Travel writers will romantically enthuse about journeys on vintage clapped out trains, turning their experiences into sentimental nostalgia of bygone ages.

Well, that's their job and I don't mind them employing a poetic license laced with invective about the quaint rolling stock and Edwardian charm of the carriages.

The first impression one gets at Cairo Train Station is one of chaos. Chaos insofar that there appears to be no order. A guide would be useful in these circumstances, of which there are dozens all designed to ensure that maximum chaos ensues.

I have a theory - I call it the Egyptian Laws of Chaos - and consists of three rules: 1. Reason is a figment of unreasonable imagination. 2. Logic is an illogical expectation. 3. Order is disorder.

Newton's Three Laws of Motion.....

When Isaac Newton wrote his three laws of motion, it wasn't an apple dropping from a tree which excited him - it was the thought of travelling on a train in Egypt.

Newton's First Law: An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

This law is often called "The Law of Inertia".

It means that there is a natural tendency of objects to keep on doing what they're doing. All objects resist changes in their state of motion. In the absence of an unbalanced force, an object in motion will maintain this state of motion.

Whilst Newton never visited Egypt, it is clear he knew something millions of tourists have since learned to their cost - that an Egyptian train will not move until they have reached maximum capacity, therefore becoming extremely unbalanced at which point it will decide to move. It will then continue to move until inertia sets in - which generally means the train driver decides to stop the locomotion and goes for his own personal motion - ie bowel relief.

Newton's Second Law...

Newton's Second Law: Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).

Everyone unconsciously knows the Second Law. We all know that heavier objects require more force to move the same distance as lighter objects.

This law was tailor-made for Egyptian trains - instead of decreasing the mass and thereby increasing acceleration, they ensure that maximum delay and effort is guaranteed by increasing the mass.

This guarantees that timetables are redundant and that rail employees can look astounded by your question "what time will we reach our destination?" Which incidentally is in direct proportion to the question everyone asks on the platform "Where is my train?" and will result in similar guffaws of laughter.

Newton's Third Law.....

Newton's Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.

This means for every force there is a reaction force that is equal in size, but opposite in direction. That is to say that whenever an object pushes another object it gets pushed back in the opposite direction equally hard.

This normally happens in Egypt when two trains are on the same line and stationary. Like two star-crossed lovers kissing in the dark - there is kinetic energy.

Consequently one train will travel several feet forward, and then several feet back. Fortunately this doesn't cause catastrophe - because the Egyptian Rail Network have embraced Newton's Laws of Motion down to a fine art and clearly are aware of my own Egyptian Laws of Chaos.

And the lesson is.....

Since my last visit, Egypt has revolted and embarked on change. I suspect the main reason why the trial of ex-president Mubarak is a mess of a dogs dinner is not because he's ill, but because he had to wait so long for a train to get him to the halls of justice, and he has become exhausted.

So next time you see him lying prostrate on a bed - confronting his prosecutors - think of the journey he had to endure, and the porter who nipped his ear every five minutes constantly asking for baksheesh.

If he was as frustrated as me, I hope he strangled the miserable money-grabbing oik - and let's face it - what did he have to lose?


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