Trains in Africa
Although not as modernized as Morocco’s system, Egypt’s rail network allows visitors to journey easily among the main centers in the northern area—Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said, Suez—with frequent trains, some of which carry modern air-conditioned coaches. In addition, you can take all-day or all-night trains down the Nile Valley from Cairo to Luxor and Aswan—not the fastest way, but certainly the most scenic. WWII North African desert campaign history buffs can travel by train from Alexandria or Cairo to Mersa Matruh and El Alamein. Beyond those, service options drop, and you can’t reach such key vacation centers as Hurghada or Sharm-el-Sheikh by rail at all. Check enr.gov.eg/ticketing/public/login.jsf for details.
Like Morocco, Tunisia enjoys a modern rail system that visitors can use to travel among the country’s main visitor centers. Service on busy routes is frequent, with 20-21 daily trains from Tunis to Sousse, Nobel and Monastir-Mahdia, and a dozen or more to Sfax, Hammamet and Beja. Some of the busy routes are one-meter narrow gauge, including what is supposed to be the fastest narrow-gauge rail system in the world. Tunisian Railways also offers a Carte Bleu railpass, 56 dinar (about $30) for seven days of train travel in the top class. Also, a light rail system runs from Tunis to the ruins of Carthage. The system’s website is at sncft.com.tn/index.php; French or Arabic only; the English site is “under construction.”
Most of the rail focus in South Africa is on luxury-train “land cruises,” of which the Blue Train is the most famous. Its main route is between Cape Town and Pretoria. It also occasionally makes charter trips to other destinations. Check bluetrain.co.za/ for details.
Rovos Rail operates a much more extensive set of luxury-train routes, from Pretoria to Cape Town and Durban, as well as longer excursions to neighboring Namibia, Victoria Falls and occasionally northward through Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia to Dar es Salaam. For details check rovos.com/.
The metro areas of Algiers, Cairo, Cape Town, Casablanca, Durban, Johannesburg and Durban are served by some combination of metro and suburban rail. Alexandria, Algiers, Casablanca, Constantine, Oran, Rabat and Tunis have local tram systems.
— Ed Perkins, editor
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