Sunday, 12 October 2008

On to Cairo

After we left Paris we had what would have to be my most memorable aeroplane flight ever with Egypt Air on the way to Cairo. When we turned up at the check in a good 3 hours early we were greeted with absolute chaos. There were people milling around the place with massive amounts of luggage, I'm talking bikes, prams, about 10 suitcases per 4 person family, kids running everywhere, it was insane. We were pretty disappointed looking at this line thinking we were going to be standing there for the next 3 hours, but luckily there seemed to also be a line for young couples with normal amounts of luggage, you know 2 bags total. It seemed to be up to the security guard's discretion as to who he would let into this super-speedy line, but after a little bit of pleading eyes he relented and let us in. So we thought we were doing quite well, but when we see on our boarding passes that boarding began in 45 minutes we were fairly sure that there was no way even half the people still in the line would make it.

Egypt Air had certainly gone for the budget route with their flight experience, either that or the French decided to reserve all the nice boarding gates for Air France, because once through security at our gate there were no toilets let alone any food outlets, slightly disappointing. Anyway boarding started on time and there seemed to be a good crowd of people also waiting to board so there was some hope that maybe we would get off on time. No such luck though as we then waited on the tarmac for an hour past our depature time as people slowly trickled on. The flight itself was completely crazy, I think that was the first flight I have ever been on where the number of children far outnumbered the adults. It felt like you were sitting in the middle of a child-care centre with kids running up and down the aisles, kicking chairs, constantly pressing the bell for the flight attendent (just to hear the noise) and screaming. It certainly was an experience and really set the scene for Egypt.

Once we finally arrived in Cairo the plane seemed to park somewhere off in the middle of the tarmac for some reason and there was then another mad scramble as everyone tried to get on the first bus to the terminal.

I'm just glad we went there with a tour company as the whole airport experience might have been too intense for me to handle by myself at midnight. Our tour guide meet us behind customs and got us the visas which was also kind of weird as we had only just meet this guy who immediately demands our passports and then disappears over the other side of the room whilst we are distracted with filling out forms. Luckily he returns with out passports and our fancy visas and we then join the passport control lines. These were some cool lines they all seemed to move very slowly and we were constantly being told to change lines by various security people so eventually it looked like all the foreigners got sorted to the back of all the lines. When we get to the front of the line you have to hand your passport over and it then disappears into the back of the room where someone else does a secondary check. The first guy has by this stage moved on to the next person in the line so you sort of stand around hoping that your passport reappears.

All in all it was a real introduction to Egypt, the end is the same as every other country, ie you get through fine with all luggage and passport intact, it's just that the means are certainly different.

The drive back from the airport was also an experience, no one can ever complain about bad driving or traffic after having driven in Cairo. But actually I think the drivers were all really good, for what they were doing. We had a three lane highway but most of the time there were four or five cars abreast, the lane markings meant nothing and everyone was going about 20 km/hr over the speed limit. Add to that the people who just seemed to wander along the roadside I think everyone was doing remarkably well. A few white-knuckle moments but we made it to the hotel, phew, that was an adventure and we hadn't even seen anything yet!