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Published: February 18th 2016
As I sit here at 4:30 in the morning, jet lagged, exhausted, sore and discombobulated all I can think is “Dang, this trip is awesome so far.” It is Thursday morning, so I have been in Cairo for 2 full days. I am finally making time to sit, write and look back on the past several days. Since this is a written blog and I can’t do the cheesy television flashback music, swirling picture thing, so you will have to imagine that for yourself as we travel back to Sunday/Monday and the beginning of this adventure.
The trip was uneventful until I reached London’s Heathrow airport. Due to bad weather and some confusion over where the plane was going to be de-iced at Washington Dulles, the flight was delayed over an hour and half. My connection in London was already tight, so en route I wavered between hopeful optimism and stress inducing pessimism about the chances of making the next flight. A very nice and helpful lady across the aisle was working online, so she kept an eye on whether the connecting flight was delayed (it was not) and looked at flights for the following day. In her opinion I
would not be able to make the flight on which I was booked. She told me that there was over a mile between the arrival gate and the customs and immigration area plus the distance to the connecting flight. As it turned out, the next available flight left London at 2 arriving in Cairo around 10 PM, meaning I would spend all night and a half day in the airport while losing an entire day of my adventure. This was not something I was going to accept without a fight.
We landed at 9:50 PM and arrived at the gate at 10:00. Luckily the flight was not crowded, so I was able to deplane quickly and took off running through the airport. Now, nothing warms a body up for a 2.5Kilometer marathon like sitting in an airplane seat for 12 hours. With my carry-on bag banging against me, I ran like a gazelle over moving sidewalks, pushed my way through crowds and hoped against hope that I would make the flight. Basically, I went after this flight like my hair was on fire. I had friends who were already in Cairo that I was going to meet for breakfast
and by golly, I was either going to be there, or pass out trying. The security line was nonexistent and the guards were very helpful in getting me on my way while encouraging me. I didn’t bother to put my belt on, tie my shoes or put anything in my pocket. Everything went into my bag and off I went for round two. Shortly after immigration I came across someone with a walkie talkie who asked if I was on the Cairo flight. Apparently there were 2 other passengers also making the connection, but I didn’t see them. (Yeah, I left them in the dust.) He ran with me, and kept in contact with the gate agents. Finally I reached the gate area. By now my face was beet red, I was panting, huffing, puffing, wheezing, gasping and, well I think you get the picture. Now, I have to stop and ask. Where do you think my gate was? Bingo, it was the absolute last gate. My gazelle-like run had morphed into something resembling a koala bear lumbering down the concourse, but I made it. As I was having my boarding pass scanned I could hear a gate agent politely
yelling at someone on the walkie talkie that if a plane lands at 10, there is no way the passengers are going to make a 10:30 connection. They were seriously impressed. If I wasn’t crawling down the jet way on all fours while gasping and sobbing, I would have been proud. Ok, so I wasn’t really in that bad of condition; however, I was not the picture of calm and elegance that I usually try to portray but who the heck cared? I was on the flight and Cairo was to be mine. As soon as I was on board, they closed the door and we departed at 10:40. While we are at it, I have to give kudos to Egypt Air on the dinner they served. It was a spicy chicken, roasted vegetable and basmati rice dish similar to a curry and it was delicious. It was not what I was expecting and made me all the more excited to taste the foods of Egypt.
Getting through immigration was a breeze, my driver was waiting for me and I was heading into the city by 6:10 Tuesday morning. Traffic was light so we made good time. As we
How nice to see good friends again
drove we talked about tourism. He told me that not as many Americans are traveling in Egypt now. I had received many suggestions from friends, family and co workers ranging from being concerned that I should not make this trip to forbidding me to make this trip. From my parents I received the dreaded "full name" warning. Since I was traveling with friends and we had all done research, we agreed that we felt it was safe, that we were sensible travelers who would not see a police action occurring and think that it would be fun to join the party. I joked that I didn’t have to outrun the bad guys; I only had to outrun my friends. In hindsight after viewing my performance in the airport, I don’t take as much solace in this as I did before. Hopefully if something happens the bad guys will run slower than a koala bear and I can get away. But in all seriousness, safety was something that we looked at and became a non issue other than the usual being alert while traveling.
Through TravelBlog, Dave and Merry Jo D MJ Binkley
and I met and have become very good friends.
View from my room if you look to the left. Not such a great view straight out.
They lived in California twice so I was able to spend a good deal of time with them. When describing them to people I know I would simply say that they are such down to earth people that they stopped off and had lunch with my family in Ohio one year while they were there. I was working in California, but since they know me, it was not a stretch at all to meet up with my family. D and MJ and I had all agreed long ago that it was be fun to travel together, but I don’t think any of us thought that it would happen so quickly.
We met at our hotel where I was able to shower and change in their room. Over a buffet breakfast downstairs we caught up and marveled that we were all 3 here together in Cairo. How awesome is that? Each of us knew that I would fade fast, so we walked down to the Egyptian Museum a few blocks from the hotel. As is the case is so many large cities, traffic is a nightmare. There are no crosswalks, so pedestrians weave through traffic. It was a warm, sunny
day, so walking and catching up with friends was a perfect way to start this trip. Armed guards are stationed along the sidewalk, but part of this may be due to the fact that our hotel is next to the British Embassy.
The Egyptian Museum is a place I have seen on multiple documentaries. Walking up to the faded facade, I felt as if I were coming back rather than arriving for the first time. It is almost overwhelming how much treasure is in this place. Rows of sarcophagus lined the walls, ancient statues stood tall guarding corridors. Mixed in with the artifacts were crates of items being prepared to ship to other museums across the world. At one point we joked that there was so much stuff that it looked like a consignment store. We walked for hours looking at items that were over 3000 years old. About halfway through our day, we met a man who became our guide. He took us up to the Tutankhamun area where we saw small statues which were a calendar, the King’s chair, some of his toys and many other personal items. Standing looking at the world famous death mask was
something I never thought I would do. I have watched many documentaries on King Tut as well as ancient Egypt, and being here, now this is one reason I love to travel. After several hours in the Museum, I finally hit the wall and needed to head back to the hotel.
After a nice 5 hour nap, I met Dave and Merry Jo in the 10th
floor Jazz bar to catch up over Egyptian beer while looking over the Nile and lights of Cairo. After traveling alone for so many trips, it is nice to have someone to talk with, to go back over the day and marvel at what we saw and will soon see. We decided to have dinner in the Turkish restaurant in the hotel. The Chef is from Turkey and D and MJ had eaten at this restaurant the night before, loving the whole experience. It turns out that this was one of the best decisions so far. The food and service were absolutely amazing. Jasmine water was poured over our hands to scent and cleanse them. Bread was presented with assorted dips. The Chef sent out a seafood appetizer as an amuse bouche. It
was at this point that I realized I needed to run up for my camera. This was going to be a dinner to remember. We split a flat bread from the pizza oven. Crisp, hot, delicious is all I can say. After this, the Chef sent out some sausage from his town in Turkey. It makes me want to book my flight right now. After this I had the 12 hour roasted leg of lamb on what I think was a pearl barley risotto. Although it was difficult to give up a bite for Dave and Merry Jo to taste, I made the sacrifice. They ordered sea bass wrapped in grape leaves which were fragrant and floral served with a sticky rice. The Chef now sent out a dessert of fried banana topped with Mastic ice cream. By now, D and MJ were stuffed, but I had noticed rice pudding on the menu and was not going to leave without some. It was as good as I had imagined. Sublime would be a good way to describe it. We met the Chef and talked with him about creating a tasting menu for us the following night. Spoiler alert: it was
amazing, but that is another story and will be in my next blog.
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