Published: November 18th 2009November 18th 2009
(Originally posted at The Arena
August 9, 2009-Day 1:
After nine months of planning and research, it was finally time to head out on our big adventure to Egypt. We had to furiously pack for a three week trip during our handful of hours at home after our week at Nags Head. Sadly, I was up until 6:00am getting ready. We put on our heavy bags and walked over to the Pentagon City Metro. Walking through the mall, wearing these huge bags, was quite entertaining.
Filled with excitement, we arrived at Reagan National. We soon found out that our flight to JKF was delayed about and hour-and-a-half. With only an 2.5 hour layover in JFK before our flight to Cairo, this added a bit of stress. We also learned that Howard, who was originally leaving from BWI, was cabbing down to Reagan because his flight had been cancelled. Not a good start.
We finally got on the plane, but then we sat there for a long time. The pilot told us that all flights into JFK were grounded because of overcrowding. Awesome. Thus, our 1.5 hour delay soon became a 3 hour delay. We scrambled to find
The Big Three
a Plan B and C to get us to Cairo.
We landed in NYC with about 15 fifteen minutes until our flight to Cairo was to depart. By the time we got off the plane, we had about five minutes. And so began a terrible, miserable, and exhausting 300 seconds that nearly killed us all. We sprinted through the JFK airport, through many bends and turns, hopping over bags and nearly running over a few small children. The most I ever sprint is the occasional run up the first base line a few times a decade. Alas, we sprinted for a good five minutes. It was miserable, but there was no way I was missing this flight.
Amazingly, we all got on the flight, and even more amazingly, all of our bags made it too. Stepping onto that flight was certainly a new experience. We were six of about ten people on the flight, out of a few hundred, who weren't Arab. The three ladies in our group were the only ones on the plane who weren’t wearing shawls or burkas. Thus, we certainly stood out. A lot. There were also an incredible number of kids, which made
First dinner in Cairo.
for an insanely loud flight.
The flight was quite miserable since I can never really sleep on planes. I did catch a few Zs laying my head on Chris’ shoulder though. I was happy to finally see Star Trek. I also tore up the snack basket in the back of the plane. Might as well eat six brownies at 3:00am.
We finally made it to Egypt around 4:00pm on August 10th. It was incredible to see the vastness of Cairo-the city goes on forever. Flying over the Pyramids at Giza was also a spectacular moment. Other than Howard managing to throw his passport under some dirty cabinet and Amanda getting soaked by a dirty toilet, we made it out of the airport just fine. We quickly learned we were in an entirely different world over here, but what an exciting and unique world it was.
August 10, 2009-Day 2:
After getting through customs, we were greeted by a guy from our hostel who was carrying a sign reading “McCormick.” This was a first. We were then welcomed by the noise and craziness of Cairo. The city is definitely always abuzz. We then went on some moderately-terrifying taxi
The shady little shisha cafe where we spent our first night in Cairo.
rides to our hotel. I’ve seen some crazy driving in Europe, but nothing like this. Despite the automobile insanity, at one point our taxi driver was “driving,” smoking, talking on his cellphone, and reading my Arabic-English dictionary.
We spent the first evening in Cairo walking the streets around our hotel. We stayed downtown, so there was always lots of energy, noise, and excitement all around. We were also surrounded by tons of clothing and shoe stores, all of which were selling VERY trendy clothes. It was also fascinating to see all the women wearing shawls or burkas-the three ladies in our group definitely stood out a ton.
We ended up dining at a wonderful restaurant recommended by my travel book, Felfela. Most of us ate some delicious chicken kabob, along with ayish (bread), tahina, and some fuul. Chris even ate some pigeons, which I also had to try (not much meat there). Despite all the drinks, appetizers, and massive entrees, the total damage was about $8/person. As every person on the streets like to say, “Welcome to Egypt!” (along with “Obama!” and “What’s your name?”).
After dinner, we continued wandering around Cairo and barely escaped death each time we crossed a street. We ended up finding an alley a few blocks from our hotel that becomes a market at night. It was a semi-shady area, and the ladies got a lot of attention and whistles here, but it was a great experience. There were definitely no other tourists around these parts. We ended up finding an amazing shisha place that was literally in the corner of an alley. We had a great time smoking a little shisha and devouring some drinks in this awesome spot. We were definitely in an entirely different world as the two dozen middle-aged men hanging out in this area gave us quite a few inquisitive stares. Unsure of prices and selections, I asked for a menu. The sassy waiter simply responded, “you are sitting in an alley, sir.” Welcome to Egypt.