Monday, February 14, 2011


TODAY: Newspapers, the Internet and television are all reporting that the damage to the antiquities of Egypt is minimal and it will be business as usual in the near future. However, just when the tourist will be returning is uncertain as we hear about new demonstrations in Algeria. Egypt has shown the power of the people and thousands of people are defying government bans on demonstrations.

Saturday, November 19th, 2005 Flying to Cairo, Egypt….

Up early…2 am…to catch the Super Shuttle bus at 2:30 am. In preparation we went to Carl’s Jr. for dinner at 3 pm and then went to bed at 6 pm. So by 2 am we’d had the opportunity to catch 6 to 8 hours of sleep. That with the No Jet Lag pills we managed to arrive in Egypt without being totally zonked!

The shuttle bus made three more stops before we arrived at LAX about 4 am. The lady behind Jim was sneezing all the way to the airport but she insisted that she didn’t have a cold. There were a total of six passengers for the trip. The counter was open at United Airlines when we arrived so we were able to check in.

After breakfast at McDonalds, Jim took an airborne tablet just in case the lady did have a cold in the shuttle. Our flight left right on time at 7 am. Easy flight to JFK in New York except for about fifteen minutes over the Rocky Mountains (I think) when it was so rough that the flight attendants had to take their seats. Based on New York time we left Los Angeles at 10 am and arrived in New York at 3 pm. Luggage was checked through so we only had to take our carryon bags with us on the shuttle tram from terminal 7 to terminal 4. Easy transfer…checked us in and weighed our hand luggage before allowing us to take them on the airplane with us. We each have the OAT bag and a backpack. There was lots of security prior to boarding the plane.

I used my cell phone and called family to let them know we were in New York and on our way.While we waited in the terminal, Jim charged his Ipod so that it would be good for the rest of the trip; we took turns keeping an eye on the unit while it charged away in the wall near the waiting area…like watching water boil! We met some very interesting people while sitting in the terminal…one couple had worked for Embassies all over the world. They’d been in Jordan for two years and during the crisis had to be evacuated. We also met several people who were on a Grand Circle Tour…a larger group than ours. We are with Overseas Adventure Travel; maximum of sixteen people in our group. We actually ended with only fifteen as we had a widowed lady from Dallas traveling by herself. We are in tandem with another OAT group of sixteen and will share the cruise ship with them while on the Nile between Aswan and Luxor.

About 5:30 pm we lined up and there met a gentlemen from San Francisco on his way to explore tombs…he reads hieroglyphics and is meeting a friend who shares his interest…his wife elected to stay home. Another fellow was meeting friends who live in Cairo. His cell phone was not working and he used my cell phone with his 800 number to call his friend in Egypt to ask if he should buy cigarettes in USA before leaving as gift for them. Actually, he found out that they were lots cheaper in Cairo. We saw him later on plane with a facemask on…to keep away the germs I think. [Yes…we’ve used face masks ever since and have stayed healthy!] He was in Business class.

Soon we discovered why they had us line up so early. They were checking almost the entire carryon luggage prior to boarding. I got a pass but they checked both of Jim’s bags. Then they checked the tickets and passports. Again, half way down the skyway to the plane, they checked our passports for the final time. Finally at 7:15 pm we were airborne and hopefully still germ free!

We both had aisle seats. I sat next to an Egyptian banker…with a seat between that we put things into but neither of us used for sleep space. Jim was in the center and thought that he would have the whole row but by the time we left….every seat in his row was taken. Consequently neither of us got much sleep on the trip. Food was good…I’d seen both movies that they showed. Both were in English with Arabic subtitles; and yes, in Egypt movies on TV were in English also with Arabic subtitles. We had already lost three hours to New York and after leaving we turned our clocks ahead another seven hours. We are ten hours different from Los Angeles to Cairo. The fellow sitting behind Jim had a very bad cold and he coughed and sneezed and blew his nose frequently all the way to Cairo. It was so tempting to offer his some cold drugs but since he appeared to be Arab; I thought better of it and kept my mouth shut. But Jim and I both took the new drug Airborne during the flight to attempt to ward off the germs!

Sunday, November 20th, 2005….Arrival in Cairo

We arrived in Cairo about half an hour late and we met our Tour Guide, Rita. We’re spending the first few nights at the Mena House Oberoi Hotel near the Giza Pyramids. One couple was already at the hotel; they’d done a tour of South Africa with OAT and now were waiting at the hotel for us as they’d arrived on Saturday. They combined the two tours so that they didn’t have the long flight time. Roger and Alice live in Red Bluff California but because of the situation; many on the tour thought for a while that they lived in South Africa. Unfortunately for them their luggage was sent to London (we found out later) instead of Egypt. It finally caught up with the group three days later as we arrived at the airport for our flight to Aswan. They’d not planned ahead and most of the items in their one carryon case were purchases made in South Africa. They wore the same clothes for three days!

Rita gave us some quick Discoveries on the long drive to the hotel that is located next to the Giza Pyramids. We saw the City of the Dead; a cemetery used by the poor for homes; and the Citadel that houses the largest Mosque in Cairo from the highway. The city is very large and has a huge poor population. Trash litters the streets and river banks. The poor can not afford the fees that the government charges for trash removal; so they continue to dump it everywhere and then the city picks it up as often as possible. Big problem; people drop papers and trash everywhere and it’s compounded by the use of plastic bags! Lots of donkeys, camels and horses used for transportation and attached to wagons to haul produce, etc. They mix right in with the traffic. The taxi cabs are small black and white cars. The cheaper taxis are VW buses and Toyota vans. They tie open the sliding doors and are always packed. The really cheap transportation is the larger buses. Conditions are very poor. Traffic is unbelievable…everyone going every which way. Soon we saw the pyramids and knew that we were close to our hotel in Giza.

Had time to unpack and reorganize a bit before our cocktail and opportunity to meet with our tour guide before dinner. Her name is Rita, short for Francarita; and she seems really great. We found out later that she is a part time actress and has been a tour guide for about fifteen years. Very knowledgeable, a degree in Egyptology; and seems to keep close tabs on everything and everyone. She has a mild cold we noted; but we’re still healthy.

Some terms we were given…she will call us “Habebe” which means sweetheart in loose translation. Maya Maya means very good. One dollar equals five Egyptian pounds. La means no. The postage stamps for cards are only 1.5 Egyptian pounds each. The cards are about 2 Egyptian pounds each. Very reasonable I thought; especially compared to Europe. Mia Mia is water. Mango and lemon/lime are very common drinks.

Some information on Muslin practices: They pray five times a day including once at 4 am. Those that are very faithful about their prayers have a bruise on their forehead from constantly touching their head to the floor while praying. During dinner we shared a table with Paul and Sue who live in Manhattan Beach California. He’s about 75 years old and she’s a bit younger. Very nice people; Paul also has had surgery on both his ankles and was not able to walk for nearly a year. He’s just getting back on his feet and has difficultly standing for long period of time. He asks lots of questions, always ready with a funny question and or story; plus he says he takes lots of photos…I told him that the challenge was on as I also liked to take lots of photos. Good people. We finally hit the hay about 9:30 pm. It’s been a long two days!

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