Crash Course in Cairo

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February 16th 2016
Published: February 18th 2016
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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
Welcoming BreakfastWelcoming BreakfastWelcoming Breakfast

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.
Nile RiverNile RiverNile River

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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 29


From King Tut's TombFrom King Tut's Tomb
From King Tut's Tomb

Part of the 365 statues that made up the calendar
From King Tut's TombFrom King Tut's Tomb
From King Tut's Tomb

One of four tables for mummification

18th February 2016

That was some run through the airport and you made it .. Well done. All the troubles in Egypt and Middle East tend to make me disinclined to visit ... Especially on my own. But great to see you and the Binkleys meeting up and exploring . I am hoping to meet them in London or Sussex when they arrive in the UK. Lynne
18th February 2016

Running for the gold
Thank you for the comment. I remember when you met D and MJ in California. I hope you are able to see them this time. I don't think I would have done this trip right now if I was traveling alone. I am seeing that it wouldn't have been an issue, but didn't know that at the time. Luckily I have friends who love to travel.
18th February 2016

I would never say ANYTHING!
I am sooooooooooooo glad you are having a great time. Thanks for letting me be a part of your trip, especially knowing how concerned I was for your safety!! Love you and have a great trip!
18th February 2016

Nope, not a peep
I am always glad to have you on my trips and love the fact that you are concerned. Thanks for the comment.
18th February 2016
Welcoming Breakfast

I am running beside you through the airport, marveling at the museum and tasting all the delicious food. I feel as though I am right beside you, in awe of the whole experience. Thank you Brendan!! I am enjoying the trip so far!
18th February 2016
Welcoming Breakfast

Thank you Lisa
I am very happy to have you along on this trip. I enjoy writing these blogs, and try to tell the stories as if we were sitting together talking. Hang onto your hat, because we have just begun.
18th February 2016

Finding your own beat
Nothing like a mad dash to get the adrenaline pumping, but yours sounded like a mad mile. And you made it. Gotta be a good sign. You couldn't have better travel companions...Dangerous Dave and the Lovely MJ...but I reckon you know that. You have known them for a while but...did you know Dave is Dangerous now? Wonderful you have been to the Egyptian Museum together. Wow. Gotta be on every traveler's Wish List. The stars seem to be aligning for one hell of a good time.
19th February 2016

Dangerous Dave?
That sounds like a great story. We have been having a great time so far.
19th February 2016

We miss you!!
Hi honey. Loved the story of your journey so far. Food looks amazing and I hope you find time to truly relax and enjoy. you deserve it! Love you! Your friends at Silver Creek
19th February 2016

With all of this incredible food I am enjoying, Silver Creek is always on my mind. I miss you too and can't wait to share some of the stories and foods when I return. Will be in the desert and off the internet for a couple days, but not to worry. Thanks for the comment.
19th February 2016

Walking like an Egyptian (on turbo charge)
So glad that mad dash had a happy ending! Well done. I have a soft spot for rice pudding too, so I can completely understand that you had to have it. We LOVED the food in Turkey, and it sounds like this chef has got you thinking about visiting Turkey soon! Looking forward to reading more about your adventures in Egypt.
21st February 2016

Ren, thanks for the comment. I remember how much you enjoyed Turkey and can't wait to follow your next trip in April. Turkey may just be my next destination. It has been in the top 5 for several years now and this may tip the scales. I will have many more food stories in my next several blogs, so get ready to read.
20th February 2016
Turkish Sausage

Foodies on Holiday!
You three are perfect together--enjoying fine dining, beautiful hotels and massive adventure! I was laughing out loud at your account of the gazelle turned koala, and here's a major well-done to have accomplished the impossible. And meeting King Tut on your first day--brilliant. I too love to first go to the museums and then to the sites; it so helps to put things in context. Looking forward to your tasting menu!
21st February 2016
Turkish Sausage

We are calling ourselve Team Egypt
I am glad you enjoyed the stories. As you know, I try to write my blogs just as I speak, so I know you were with me on that run. King Tut was brilliant, that is a great way to say it. This trip is going well, but the internet here is spotty and slow, so blogs are being delayed. Thanks for the comment
21st February 2016

Keep it coming chef .. I'm enjoying reading your blog so much. "Spoiler alert"- I was cracking up!!! And the story about the restaurant had me hanging on every word. Amuse buche!? So cool. Anyway, glad to see you made it safely to Egypt. Have FUN..
2nd March 2016

wow....just WOW
What an incredible start to a fabulous journey. I'm with you in spirit. I close my eyes after every sentence And I'm sitting there with you. You are a great storyteller. Miss you.

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