Tuesday, January 30, 2007

...and we're off!!

Day 1 began with the good news that Lei got her Jordanian visa.....at the 11th hour!! We were both so excited that it was reallllllly hard to concentrate on work the rest of the day.

I left work around 5:30pm. The game plan was to meet at Lei's house (out in podunk Ashburn) where I would leave my car. Her husband would drive us to the airport. I arrived at Lei's house about an hour later and she's tinkering with the contents of her bckpack -worried that it was too heavy and suggesting that she could lighten the load by removing a couple of small plastic bags. She's got a lot to learn!!



After a quick bite, we were off to the airport. There were no lines so we made it to the departure lounge with plenty of time to spare.

Our transit was in Paris - we arrived around noon the following day. We had a 2 hour layover which we thought would be plenty of time. We had to shuttle from one terminal to another and although 2 hours seemed to be sufficient, the ride wound its way through the bowels of Charles de Gaulle airport and took what seemed to be an eternity!! We rushed to arrive at the departure gate only to find out that the flight was delayed. Something about needing to repair the brakes. Not something you want to hear as you embark on a flight!!
Ater a couple of delays, the plane took off and it was a safe landing in Cairo - arriving about 1 1/2 hours late at about 9pm.

I breezed through Immigration but poor Lei was detained. While she waited for clearance, which required a visit to the police stationed inside the airport, I went and got our luggage. Shortly after I pulled Lei's backpack off the carousel, I spotted Lei returning to the Immigration counter - I was keeping my fingers crossed that there were no problems as it would have been tragic for them to deny her entry after all the effort that she had made to get her visa. A few minutes later Lei emerged with a big grin on her face so I knew we were on our way to see Egypt!!
Our next challenge was to catch a cab to the hotel. Lei had sat next to an Egyptian woman on the plane and had asked her to write the name and address of the hotel in Arabic. Smart thing to do. Later on, we would simply carry a business card from the hotel so we wouldn't have to find someone to write it down each time.


We also read in our travel guides that it should cost between 50 and 69 Egyptian pounds for a taxi ride from the airport to the city center. With all that information in hand, we started haggling (something we would do for the next 12 days) and finally found a cab driver who would take us to the hotel for 55 EG.

The ride to the hotel was our introduction to how traffic runs in Cairo - there's much to say about that so I will save it for a separate posting. To say that Lei and I were grateful to arrive at the hotel in one piece was an understatement!!

As he took the last piece of our luggage from the trunk of his car, the taxi driver attempted to extort another 5 EG from us saying that his original quote did not include the cost oif the 5 EG toll that he has to pay to exit the airport. We told him that we would only pay the 55 EG that we had agreed to and walked away. Fortunately, he chose not to follow us and harrass us.

As we checked in, I noticed that the young couple standing behind us was seated next to me on the plane. They turned out they were on the same tour as Lei and I. We introduced ourselves. She is Bridget and he is Daniel. Both are New Zealanders living in London. We agreed to meet back in the lobby in 15 minutes to go and find a place to eat.

There was a bit of a mixup with our room which we quickly straightened out. We spent a few minutes checking out the room, doing a bit of unpacking and getting freshened up. Didn't take us but a few minutes to "trash" up the room :-)





We then we met back up with Bridget and Daniel. We asked the hotel clerk for recommendation on where we could go to eat kabobs and with vague directions in hand, we headed out into the Cairean night in search of the suggested restaurant. I have no idea if we found the recommended restaurant or not but we did find a place serving kabobs so we settled into a table and ordered food and drinks. Dinner for the four of us came to $150 EG which we would later learn was highway robbery - we could have gotten the meal for less than 1/2 of what we paid. Oh well....being ripped off....something I've come to expect to happen on your first outing in a foreign country. On the way back to the hotel, we bought bottled water and munchies for the next day. It had been a long travel day and I was tired. We called it a night. My head hit the pillow and I fell into a deep slumber. It had been an eventful day and as it would come to be, the first of many eventful days!