06 January, 2011

Egypt! Dec 19, 2010

Day 1: Insha’allah
Getting to our hotel took some doing, but then we were the ones who chose a two-leg flight. Vienna was a challenge as airports had been closing Dec 18-19 for unprecedented snow. We packed for Egypt as lightly as possible, so when we disembarked on the -11C tarmac wearing only a fleece pullover for warmth I desperately yearned for Cairo’s 22C. The connection was a confusing one with Austrian Airlines priniting only our boarding pass from Stockholm, and made worse by the requirement of a 2nd security check before we reached our gate. The result was no Duty Free, and a hastily chugged Starbucks. Nooo! Alas, liquids. Much of our tour will be dictated by the fluid state of matter it seemed.
Cairo airport. Was incredibly easy, so much so that I was suspicious. For example, we can go to Duty Free after arrival. (In a Muslim country it is best to be discreet when purchasing alcohol, and thus pack your own.) Our friend at the counter did us the “favor” of not sealing the bag. Which meant that two separate security check seemed to desire bribes in order to let us through with our $14 bottles of vodka. Not worth it: cheap for Sweden prices, but guidebooks and my instincts mean that you can get into more trouble putting cash into the hands of someone wearing a uniform than your bribe will buy you out of. This is an odd experience of panic for the uninitiated, and an adrenaline rush for sure... One I dealt with by pretending not to understand the context, which I’m sure there were layers I was missing any way. And Anne got us through by pointing out that the time on the receipt was mere moments ago.

The days leading up to our travel were oddly stressful moments, blending panic of the past (did we do everything we needed to wrap-up our projects?), the present (how to fit in all the last minute details of life, holiday parties, and getting our place ready to rent out) AND the future (not knowing how to prepare for what lie ahead.) Wow, just listing all that out, I’d say we were “pretty keyed up”. We had gotten up at 4am and so when we got to our shabby little hotel, all we wanted was to sleep. I actually went to bed “without any dinner” preferring to deal with the sights and sounds of Hurghada the next day rather than to invite any more potential hassle.
Hurghada is like a Cancun for Russian tourists. It’s also in varying states of con- and  de- struction, so the sidewalks are more treacherous to ankles than Itaewon in Seoul. Gaudy casino lights, discos, souvenir shops, honking taxis. When I opened my taxi door upon arrival I had to stop short lest I hit the camel sauntering by the strip. I almost hit an honest-to-God camel with my car door! Suddenly, I felt very far from home and that I shouldn’t be writing this: Hunter S. Thompson should.
Alas, our room was more than an hour in getting ready (“Just 5 minutes” Egyptian Time) and we were promised assistance with our lost bags while being hustled for excursions we didn’t want. We just wanted our bags and quiet.
What we’ve learned today in the guidebook (Footprints) about Egyptian travel, culture, history, food, safety, crime, and language all stresses patience. This adds up to the phrase insha’allah, god willing, but it’s used for expressions about the future. Det ska bli bra or hopefully. I hope for many things on this trip, but we will have to wait and see what fate brings.

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