Blog 6- flight to Egypt & arrival
Let me start this blog off with a disclaimer:
-I came down with some kind of stomach bug/pseudo cold on our last day in Rome and it seemed that sleep was the only medicine that worked. Thus, this blog is of a collaboration of things that I can remember from of the few hours I was actually awake and of my partner-in-crime's recollection of questions that I asked him.
Okay now that I got out of the way, let's begin:
The plane rides to Athens, Greece and then to Cairo, Egypt went pretty smoothly. We were actually issued paper tickets from Olympic Airlines and I found that an experience in itself. I really think it has been more than 10 years since I've used a paper ticket. Everything now a days is electronic so it really was a throwback. Anyways, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed both of my flights on Olympic. The meals they served were good and the flight attendants and crew were very nice. They even allowed both Luqman and I to change seats so we could have more space. Now again, this is what I can remember of the flights because I was pretty much comatose and asleep during the majority of them
We arrived in Cairo around 2:45 AM and as soon as I stepped off the plane and into the airport, I knew I was way outside my comfort zone.
First of all, I have pretty much no experience with Arabic. The only phrases that I know are the ones that Luqman taught me or the ones I have picked up from my guide book. Thus, for those of you who know me, you know that I am VERY uncomfortable in an environment where I cannot effectively speak the language and communicate. When I got off the plane, I looked around and realized I could not read anything. Thankfully, there were some signs that were translated into English.
Secondly, I looked very foreign and very much like a tourist. I had on my college tracksuit and I was wearing Puma sneakers. People were clearly staring at how strange I looked. I think my only saving grace was that many of the Egyptians were short, so I blended in with the locals in that manner.
Interestingly enough, Luqman was treated differently from me although he was dressed like an American tourist as well. This wasn't just at the airport. On the flight to Cairo, the flight attendant was giving out customs forms to all the passengers. There was one form for Egyptian citizens and one for foreigners. When she got to Luqman, she looked at him for a minute and handed him the form for Egyptian citizens. Then when our contact from Topdeck Tours picked us up, he looked at Luqman and looked a bit confused. It was almost as though he was trying to figure out why a local would want to go on a tour. I think he was further puzzled by Luqman's name as well. Regardless, I was glad that our luggage got there safely and we found our ride.
We arrived at our hotel and checked in to our room. This hotel was very interesting. The décor made it seem like it was a throwback to a Las Vegas Hotel in the 1970's. After checking in, I collapsed in bed… but you already probably figured this out…
Anyways, when I finally arose from my slumber, I think it was very well into the afternoon, Luqman and I went upstairs to meet our trip leader and our group. We went to the top of the hotel and the view of Cairo from there was beautiful. We met our trip leader, a nice Egyptian man named Viktor, who told us that for the next 8 days we would be a family. This family consisted of four Americans, two English girls and an Aussie who currently resides in the UK. Everyone seemed to be in the same age range and amiable.
After situating ourselves, Luqman and I decided to venture out of the hotel to find a place to eat. We walked out of the hotel and decided to just go down the road to see where it would lead us. We walked for a bit and then came to a main road. We looked to cross the street and realized that there were no cross walks. Thus, the only way across was going to be implement our own live version of Frogger. (Props to those of you who know what I'm talking about).
When we crossed the street, we chose the closest restaurant that we saw. It was called the Sea Gull and it looked reasonably good. The menu was priced in a decent price range and there seemed to be a good number of people eating in the restaurant. We walked in to eat and then realized that perhaps we were a bit out of our range. I looked around and saw that everyone was dressed in suits, tuxedos and very nice formal wear. Luqman and I were…how do I describe it….we weren't… let's just say that we weren't dressed up. Nevertheless, we sat down and enjoyed a delicious chicken Egyptian meal on top of a boat right on the Nile River. I particularly enjoyed the many dips and hummus.
After dinner we walked back to the hotel and I… you guessed it…passed out asleep. I went to sleep hoping that my first day in Cairo wasn't a precedent for the rest of my Egyptian adventure.