So excited to start this next adventure to Egypt! This is a first time for me being on a Contiki with my boyfriend so we are interested to see how we the group dynamic will work with us, etc. We booked flights with KLM so normally flights connect quickly in Amsterdam and continue on but we purposely booked flights with a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam so that I can see the city for myself! We boarded our flight from Toronto last night about 6:30pm. Not sure how many hours I slept but I did manage to pass out for a good portion of the 7 hour flight to Amsterdam. I am not going to blog about my Amsterdam sightseeing but the gist of it is that we walked the majority of the time; saw the red light district, walked into a coffee shop, missioned it to the IAmsterdam sign & I loved the bikes and canals of course! It was very nice to see the city for the first time! Back at the airport, we got to our gate and noticed it was the first time I had ever seen security at our own gate & every single person was body scanned. The flight was 5 hours from Amsterdam to Cairo and luckily I slept the majority of it! There was a lovely Egyptian man sitting on one side of me and he started chatting me up towards the end of the flight. He was so friendly and happy to see us as tourists coming to visit. He kept saying "I love my country; you will love my country" and he gave us a pen as a thank you for the nice conversation. What a nice first impression!
Our flight arrived at 11pm and we didnt know what to expect from here on in. The airport was quite empty. Immediately we saw our Contiki rep with a sign "Mohammed" who brought us to a counter where it took 1 minute to pay the $15USD for our Visa sticker to put in our passport. No dramas, no lines, no need to pay extra to get it done in advance as far as I am concerned. He then waited while our luggage came out which was the slowest part. We then started getting hassled as taxi drivers were asking us - but Mohammed took us to a Spring Tours van which was there waiting for us. It was a 45 minute drive and our first impression of the roads was insane. Nobody has any regard for traffic rules. There are lines, but nobody stays in them, traffic lights that nobody obeys and a constant hum of honking. Mohammed chatted us up on the drive and answered any questions we had. He let us know that if we wanted to do something with a group during the day that an Alexandria day trip was departing at 6am if we wanted to join. Since Mark & I were zonked from our Amsterdam layover, we really needed more time to crash before doing that; plus we wanted to explore Cairo a bit on our own before being with the group. Mohammed helped us to get checked into the hotel; gave us a welcome pack with some info and left us. Mark wanted to buy some water right away so he went to the hotel bar and we quickly realised that our USD$ were not as widely accepted as we thought they'd be. Everything is in Egyptian pounds. Little did we realize that as our travel documents and past trainings had told us USD would be fine. The first impression of the Victoria hotel at midnight is not a good one. It looks like a sketchy street we are on. Mark thinks he saw some guys having a confrontation with weapons of some sort just down the street and on the other side of the street, someone was burning a fire in a bin. The hotel has a metal detector. THe lighting is very dim. Our room is big but basic and not very warm feeling. At 1am or so we tried to get some sleep.