Horns & Sirens

We arrived in Diametta Container Port last night after dark and I went to sleep dreaming of making my first landfall on African soil. Alas, it was not to be. We off-loaded a few containers and took on more, but made way at 10:30, before the haze had burned off. From the Nav Deck I could see the profile of Diametta and, in the far distance Port Sa’id.

The containers we took on fascinated me. They are Thermo King refrigerated units, each a self-sustaining refrigerator, probably fueled by LP Gas. Now I know how Egyptian fruits get to European markets.

The port here handles container ships, tankers, and grainery ships, all pulled up dockside like nursing puppies. The tugboats still communicate by horns and sirens, although I suspect that’s because Egyptian tugboat sailors like to express themselves.

A Day Later:

Port Sa’id and Faoud straddle the canal, one foot in Africa, the other in Asia. They are connected by several death-defying ferryboats which scuttle back and forth in the gaps between monster container ships, like a mother and pram dashing across a parade route. They look almost derelict. They bob and jostle in our wake, like waxed paper ships in a bathtub tempest.

Boat traffic in the port is mind boggling. Water craft of every description and condition congest the harbor. Some look half sunken, but still go about their mysterious business. Our Captain navigates personally. I don’t blame him.

I am stunned by the surprising beauty of the mosques. Their architecture is exotic, like nothing else in my experience. They are points of silence in a sea of activity. If I lived in Port Sa’id I would spend time in them. There is a lodestone quality to their lunar serenity.

After days at sea, Port Sa’id assaults me like a Hiernomous Boche painting or Where’s Waldo illustration. Everywhere you look something’s happening; people selling and buying, people arguing, people fixing motorbikes, people cycling, and people playing soccer. What dawns on me, however, is that all those people are men. The occasional woman is dressed in black, still, almost invisible. Waiting for something.

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Copyright Jack Kelleher © 2014.