Friday, November 20, 2015

Cairo: Getting There (in one piece!)

My brother and his partner were in UAE for a week to visit us, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and also Cairo & Giza. We've tagged along to Egypt as we've never seen the pyramids either. As most of our adventures do, we started with excitement at the airport.

I was able to book confirmed tickets for the guys, but Brian and I were standby, which always causes last minute worry and stress. But the travel gods were smiling and we got on (maybe they felt sorry for us after Doha? ;) So, off we went for the 3.5 hour flight.

Decent food, watched a movie, took a short nap and then we were descending into Cairo.

Quick side track: While planning this trip, we had a few discussions about the safety of traveling to Cairo.  Unfortunately, if you listen to US news, the entire Middle East is dangerous and unsafe, which is just not true. But we did our research and found that there might be some political demonstrations due to some upcoming elections, but as long as we stayed away from large crowds, we should be fine. Then, a few days before we're due to fly out, a plane traveling to Sharm El Sheikh crashes in what speculators say might have been a bomb. We decided to continue with our plans as Sharm El Sheikh is quite far from Cairo. You'll understand the side track in a minute.

Back to our story.

We were descending into Cairo and about a minute or so from touching down . . . and then we were going back up again. My first reaction was, "hmm, pilot must have overshot the landing". I looked at Brian, he looked at me and we both shrugged. Then my imagination kicked in. We kept ascending and there was no announcement. 5 minutes passed and we hit a little turbulence. My imagination really kicked in:

"Oh my god, someone else is flying the plane!"
"We've been silently taken over by ISIS!"
"The ISIS pilots don't have enough experience and we're going to crash!"
"I hope my brother looks back before we go down. (he and his partner were at the front of the plane and us at the back)

Then, the pilot came on, apologized for the change in plan and explained that there was an obstruction on the runway (camel? Al Quaeda? King Tut?) and he had to make another run at a different runway.

So that was fun. Then we got through immigration just fine, found a taxi without too much trouble or bartering and off we headed to Giza. An hour drive we had read in our internet research.
We then started the next adventure of rush hour traffic through Cairo. Imagine 5 lanes of traffic. Sorry, I mean imagine a road with painted lines for 5 lanes. Then imagine a mass of cars loosely organized into 7 lanes of traffic (apparently the lines are vague suggestions only).

Now imagine it’s Christmas eve at Wal-Mart and there’s a sale on the hottest toy that year. Can you picture the behavior of the shopper in this scenario? That’s how Egyptians drive. In and out, honking, flashing lights, barely missing each other. And all the while, our driver is cool as a cucumber – no swearing, getting angry or finger gestures. Just another evening drive in Cairo.

One hour, forty minutes later we arrived at our hotel.

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