Ismailia, the ancient Egyptian burg, described as "The City of Beauty and Enchantment", played host to the Black Stars and their accessories for nearly three weeks.
Ghana did not enjoy the expected stellar AFCON campaign in Ismailia, but fair to say, memories of the city is one that will linger in our minds forever.
The beautiful people, their uncanny warmth, the generosity and sense of pride.
Never an hour passes by, without a native approaching you and asking the usual "do you like Ismailia" question. Appears the local people have been schooled at how to fill the hearts of guests with beautiful memories of the city.
I remember when we lost our way to our hotel, the Taxi Driver not understanding a word of what we tried to say. He stopped at a group of old men seated in an awha (old-fashioned cafe) smoking a Mua'sse (unflavoured tobacco).
Before he could stop to ask if any of the men could understand basic English, the men had, however, spotted we were strangers. They rushed to our car, greeted us with Salaam, followed by "Welcome to Egypt".
We were going to the 25th of January Resort, a popular paramilitary Hotel in the city. But none in Ismailia, including Furkan, our driver appeared to know what we meant.
Simply because, we didn't mention 25th January in Arabic, which is (Hamsa Sheenenirey).
After they got knowledge of the hotel, which was just some 4km away, the men, instead of allowing our taxi driver to send us to the base, rather pulled us down, paid the Taxi and asked us to join them sip tea and smoke mua, sse.
I didn't particularly like the thick smoke around us, but I was overawed by their warmth.
We spent nearly an hour of chattering. But honesty is a great virtue. I can't remember anything from that convo bar the "Ghana good..good. Ghana very very good. Ghana.., Egypt final" portions of it.
The people live well. It's a city with some sort of working class. But one striking feature I observed throughout my stay in Ismailia that, there's never a time I saw a big car.
The largest automobile I ever saw in the city was a 2014 Hyundai Tucson, and that was driven by a top Police Detective in the Province.
There are scarcely new cars, let alone big ones. No V8, no Pajeros, no Tundras.
Even the city's top public officials drive no different cars.
“Egyptians love old cars,” says Fathi, owner of a 1960´s Opel car taxi he inherited from his grandfather and is slowly repairing for both sentimental and economic reasons.
"This car is worth 100,000 Egyptian Pounds…Old cars are strong,” he says proudly, noting that mechanics in the area specialize in fixing old cars.
Despite the great value of the car and the fact that it could easily feature in a museum exhibit, when I asked if he would ever sell his car Fathi's answer was an astonished and slightly offended, “no way.”
His Opel is not the only jewel on the streets of Ismailia. A 1938 Ford classic, a 1950s Bali and a 1960s Mustang are some of the many survivors plying the streets of the city.
Fathi then further explains why people do not like to buy big cars.
"It's a very old city and we are familiar to tradition and ourselves. We like it this way. No pressure from our children to buy. I El give my son this too", he laughs.
One underlining secret is that Fathi added, people who buy new big cars suffer a lot of attention and inquest.
"When you live here and you buy big cars, suddenly everyone looks. Security people put an alert on you and tax people start querying your accounts. Nobody likes that stress"
But all good to show Ismailia is quite unique and beautiful with its antique cars.
Source: Saddick Adams