So I ran to my room, checked my computer for the flight time, yes it was what I dreaded would be, threw all of my stuff together into the suitcases, thinking all the time there was a two hour check-in time before the flight, it was now 2215, when I got downstairs the Lufthansa crew had gone, I got them to rush my check out through, they did not know the meaning of rush, but they did order me a taxi, then put my suitcases into it, so they were a little organised, I got into the taxi at 2238 and told the taxi driver rush, rush, he made some comment about speed cameras, but I will give that to him he did rush. We made to the airport at 2300 hrs, and Lufthansa crew was just going in at that point, pushed my bags through the x-ray, did not lose my wallet, and got to the check-in before the 40 minute cutoff before the flight time.
Then it was through security, customs, passport control, and on to the gate, where I had to cool my heels for 30 minutes, what an anticlimax.
Monday 24 May technically still Muscat.
So was onto the plane and a 40 minute flight, and I may have got 20 minutes sleep, off at Dubai, and as it had been having very similar weather to Muscat, temperatures in the high forties, I decided I could do with out that and would fly on to Cairo, if I could get a seat on the Singapore airlines flight. My travel agent in New Zealand had told me that this particular flight was packed full and there was no way they could get me a seat.
So was through passport control, connect my luggage, through customs, out of the terminal, walked several hundred metres, in the heat, at 1:30 a.m., into departure, through security number one, to the check-in, no problems for a seat, in fact when I got on the plane, business class was only three quarters full, so there were miles of seats.
Up to the business lounge, relaxed a little bit, the plane was running about an hour late, so eventually onto the plane, a three-hour flight, hopefully I slept for two, so off the plane again this time in Cairo, purchased a Visa for $US15 this came in the form of two small postage type stamps which you had to stick on an empty page of your passport, then through passport control, my passport is getting a little worn and security each time is studying a passport photo thinking it is a replacement photo, roll on America, hope they have a warm cell for me, to baggage, through customs and now the fight on the taxi rank.
They seem to be about 24 taxi drivers wanting to take me on to Cairo, I compared prices, took the second lowest one, and was on to my hotel, except when I got to the hotel, I did not like the look of it, it was booked on the Internet for $US43, so I taxi driver took me on to another three hotels, and I'm in the third hotel called new Garden Palace, at $US24. No it's not the Hilton, but it seems to be quite adequate for what I want a hotel for, which is sleeping and showering.
So by nine o'clock I was in my room, went up to have breakfast, about that time a tour operator arrived, and by the time I'd listen to his spiel it is going on to 10 o'clock, and as I saw it approaching 10, I took two sleeping pills, and told him he had 15 minutes.
They want me to pay for the four day's tour that he suggested I take, I said I will pay for Tuesday, then went off to bed, woke up at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. Yes it was a good sleep.
Tuesday 25 May Cairo
Today was my tour around Cairo, the driver was 10 minutes late, driving a Lada, with an air-conditioner fitted, can just in case you get excited, the car was at least 10 years old, and looked it. So was off to the Coptic area of Cairo, checked out the churches, there was one where Jesus and his parents are reputed to have hidden for six months, in the crypt underneath the church. No photographs allowed, the church was very rundown, and so were the other two that I looked at, all of the Coptic religion, and then the Jewish Synagogue, before I could enter that one, I was checked over with a metal detector, it needed some financial help as well, there are police on guard everywhere, one of them with his broken English was trying to direct me to various areas, and I went off in these directions to see what was there, in the end I gave up and had started heading back to the car, and his police officer, as I walked past him, said tip, tip. I kept on walking.
Back to the car, through muslin area, lots of mosques, the driver said Cairo was the city of a million minuet's. Wearing boots and knowing you had to take your footwear off, and having seen many mosques before, I elected not to bother on this occasion. So was a round and round Cairo, I walked through many areas, and eventually by 12 o'clock, the driver had run out of locations, so he said we will go to Giza.
That was okay by me because that was my tour for tomorrow, and here I was going to get two tours for the price of one. So it was not very many minutes drive, and we were in the city of Giza. Stopped at one restaurant, recommended by the driver, no they did not have a European menu, so I went out back to the car, commented to the driver, he says this is Egypt, why would they have a English menu? I commented that in Hong Kong, in a very backstreet restaurant, where we were placed near the back of the restaurant, they had an English menu, but I said of course the Chinese want to do business.
We had passed a Pizza Hut, so in desperation, I said take me to a Pizza Hut. He took me instead to a Egyptian art gallery, that sold Egyptian art of the Pharaoh dateline, and a salesman was very helpful and wanted to tell me how the paper was made, I told him I had seen the manufacture, he then went on to tell me how each painting had a number in the price in Egyptian pounds. He had a piece of paper that I could make a note of which Painting number and how much it was, and I told him I would not need that.
However he did follow me around with this piece of paper to make notes of all of the paintings I wanted, and when I got sick of him following me around, I told them I was not going to order any, which I had already told him, this time he went away, and about four minutes after entering the shop, I was ready to depart, he stopped me at door, and asked the which ones did I want, I said none, he was dumbfounded, that somebody could depart these premises without a valuable piece of art, that was reduced by 50%, was beyond him.
So was back into the car, and on the way to Pizza Hut. We got to Pizza Hut, and low and behold it was right opposite the Sphinx and the three Pyramids of Giza. Upstairs to Pizza Hut, sat down at the table to panorama view of the Giza scenery, famous worldwide. My waiter took me up onto the roof for better view of the Pyramids, and kept on telling me, that I would need to give him a good tip. I ignored the comment.
After finishing the meal, which filled the space required, I asked for the account, and told the waiter that a tip was for exceptional service, at the discretion of the diner, and where one was asked for, often the person doing the asking, missed out completely, but in this case I left him the smallest domination note I had, which was equal to about $US0.12c which in reflection was probably a fraction high.
It was then back to the car, the driver told me that I could hire a camel for £E150 and that would give me an hour and a half. Having been on a camel several times before, I did not exactly rush to accept the very generous offer, and asked him instead, can we not driver around the Pyramids? He said we had to leave the car here to go in! I said where are the all those other cars going that I have seen? He said they go in a different entrance! I said could we not go there? He said yes, and proceeded to drive in that direction.
It was a very short distance, I paid the $US3 to get the car and myself in, and he proceeded to drive to the distant location were all camels were, parked, and I proceeded to walked past all the touts who wanted into place me on a camel, to area where I could get the three Pyramids in a line. It was very interesting how the city of Cairo has expanded so that it is right in the background of the Pyramids, and when I see this I'm a little bit more sympathetic to the Department in New Zealand that made the Lord of the rings film crew pulldown all of the villages that they had built for the film.
Spent quite a lot of time in and around this area, observed all of the tourists getting up on camel's to have their photograph taken, once that was done, getting off, which they were not terribly excited about the motion the camel goes through to get down.
I got some interesting pictures of the Pyramids, did not bother going inside any, recalled one of the mosques I was shown, that had used the covering stone from one of the Pyramids to build the mosque and I thought what a pity.
Eventually it was time to go back to the hotel and the driver felt every other driver in Cairo was out to get in his way, or obstruct them in some way, and his driving was very interesting, but not for the fainthearted, although he would need a lot of practice to be able to drive in Karachi.
Back at the hotel, he was looking for tomorrow's fee, seeing he took me to Giza today, and of course I had news for him.
Wednesday 26 May Cairo
Today I had booked to go to Alexandria with a pickup at eight o'clock, of course he was working on Egyptian time which meant he arrived at 15 minutes past. My driver was supposed to be English-speaking, well the English he spoke was like none either ever heard in my life. I told him I want to go by the Delta and back by the desert, that I wanted to take photographs and for him to stop when I said stop.
He said you wanted buy film? At that point I knew I was in trouble, but I thought let us give it a go! We got underway in eventually I saw him taking the road to Alexandria by the desert, after the second sign I asked are we going via the desert, he said yes, I said I want to go via the Delta, he said something I've no idea what it was in So we went backwards and forwards a little bit like a comedy act for a while, in the end I said take me back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel I complained to management and anybody else that would listen, they gave me a total refund, the driver was still hanging around eventually when I went up to my room, I'm not quite sure what he was waiting for, after that I came down told the manager I wanted to go to Alexandria tomorrow and he proceeded to organise it for me, so tomorrow morning at eight o'clock we try again, but I won't be up to go via the Delta, what the driver was trying to tell me was that the tourists are not allowed to go that way, I guess there must be extremists there for that route to be banned. Hopefully tomorrow's driver will speak some sort of English they can be understood .
Evidently I am 15 minutes walk from the Egyptian Museum, so I went along there camera in hand, and of course they would not let me in with the camera, I did not feel like checking it in to the baggage and area, so after a little hassle I got a refund has started to proceed back to the hotel. As I left one of the guide's told me that was quite safe to leave at in the check-in area, he said there they are very honest! Like everywhere else they are not!
It was a good walked back to the hotel, I needed some exercise, I bought a couple of magazines Time and Newsweek so that allowed me to catch up with the latest events in America!
Yesterday at Pizza Hut I was talking to a American couple from Florida and they commented that an American on tour in Egypt has a car with guards in preceding the bus, and two armed guards onboard with Uzis. I'm not sure if that would make me happy or worry me!
After reading the two magazines and thinking a bit as to what I was doing I decided to fly out in the next couple of days, but that time I have seen the main highlights, and considering every country I've been in since leaving New Zealand, has had people on the make, looking for tips, and doing the best part you from your money, it will be good to return to the West where things are less blatant.
The manager told me he would get Lufthansa on the telephone and put it through to my room, after about 90 minutes I decided that it would be probably better for me to visit their office than grow old waiting for the phone call. I went downstairs and asked where the office was in the told me near the Egyptian Museum, so I thought good that will kill two birds with one stone, so I went back minus cameras, looking for a reasonable Egyptian restaurant on the way back, they were all very grubby affairs, nothing like Turkey where you felt you could enter without catching the plague or something as equally interesting.
That is probably why American fast food restaurants do so well in these countries that are not too fussed on hygiene. So was into the good old Colonel for lunch, then on to the Museum, it is very interesting, the entrance fee was 20 Egyptian pounds, when you got in and upstairs you could visit the Mummy room for an extra 40 Egyptian pounds. I did a walk-through has a normally do when I find things of marginal interest, the culture was so alien that I found I could not relate to it at all, so all of the artefacts and other exhibits were interesting to see but I found them not relevant enough to study.
A lot of the exhibits, like the plough, and other household implements are common in many cultures, perhaps they originated here, but they were nothing new! All of the Mummy caskets were interesting with their painting but you would in needed an expert to explain what it was all about. There are lots of students there copying the designs that are on the caskets.
One of the guards on duty, asked me if I had a pen I could give to him, I said no, and when I passed him again he tried to cadge a cigarette. Yes it is time I left the city, so after 60 minutes of rapid walking through the Museum, I left the Museum and then looked for a taxi to take me to Lufthansa which was some distance away.
The first taxi wanted 20 pounds, and when I walked away he reduced it to 10, I kept on walking, another taxi pulled in, I asked him how much, he said 10 so I climbed in. He insisted on waiting whilst I was in the office, and I could feel a con coming on, I went in and changed the flight for Saturday, there were no problems, came out and he took me back to the hotel, I gave him 20 pounds, which was two 10 pound fares, of course he wanted 25! I just walked into the hotel, and eventually he drove away.
Tonight for dinner I walked back towards the Museum in this time visited Pizza Hut, was interesting watching the women that were there, there were three say 18-year-olds, sitting at the next table, they were dressed as anyone in the West would be, they were talking 90 to that dozen, there were two dressed as conservative muslins, and they had good ability at talking, the people serving, were all men in their twenties, the one the serving me brought me my Diet Coke with the straw in his hand, which I tossed onto the table when he put into the glass, it was interesting when I ordered the next Diet Coke, he brought me the straw wrapped in a table napkin, for all good that did, I saw them replenishing their supply of straws, and he picked up a bundle of his hand, put them in the bin, and when they would not quite fit, padded them with his hand until they all fitted in nicely.
It was interesting this afternoon following a European girl, who was holding hands with her boyfriend, walking down the street, she had high heel wedged shoes on, a minidress, a mesh top on, and had more skin showing probably that all of the girls in Cairo, it is interesting to watch the muslin men watch her as she went past, and also interesting to watch the muslin woman turned and looked at her!
As you walk about the city, the amount of police all heavily armed makes you realise, that the whole Middle East is a powder keg just waiting for somebody to light the fuse. Tonight I saw several with Uzis, once on the outside of the fence had two magazines and bolted together, the one on the inside of the fence only had one magazine. I saw one armed guard standing at a gate with a helmet on that looked too large for him, he appeared to be peering from underneath it, he had body armour on and automatic rifle, it wasn't all so serious when he would have looked funny.
At the Museum, you went through two lots of security, with x-ray and metal detectors, armed guard standing about, one had a metal shield on wheels, I assume it was reasonably bulletproof, another guard was busy putting on his body armour, and he laid down his gun beside him, so with thinking like that he probably needed the body armour.
Thursday 27 May Cairo Airport
This morning I was supposed to be collected to go to Alexandria for the day, of course right on form he did not show up, they could not give any reason just shrugged their shoulders, of course that sort of performance I detest, I detest all of this haggling that goes with every transaction, I dislike all of the things they try to do just to get a tip a few seconds later, NO I am NOT shifting to the middle east, of course it would be OK if there was someone in your employ to deal with this unusual way of life, but the dirt and rubbish and lack of hygiene would eventually wear you down.
I looked at the people who built the pyramids the Pharoahs the race of people the Egyptians claim they are descended from and find it hard to see any trace of the people who built all these wonders of the world, if they were I wonder who gave them the tips for the tasks!!!
One of my tour guides told me he was descendant from the people that built the Pyramids and he went on to add he was an Arab. Reading one of the books I bought it appears that the average Egyptians is an actual fact an Arab, and the people who are the original race where the founders of the Coptic church who are probably the descendants of the Pharoah's but who knows.
YES I let the bastards wear me down, and decided to exit this country today after this latest mess up this morning, so I took a taxi, after haggling about the bloody fare, he wanted to wait and charge me £5 for waiting time, I tell you it never stops, off to Lufthansa and thank goodness they had a seat, back to the hotel, went for a bit of a walk and thought why bother so back to the hotel collected my bags and my trusted friend took me out to the airport, on the way out he assured me he was a business executive who had two days off and he used his car to make extra money!!!!
At the airport on the kerb there were a swarm of flies, so it was inside SAP were there were still flies but not quite as many. There was a two hour wait, but three magazines helped to pass the time, then thro security, wait again for check-in to open, when it did the officer collected me and took me to the first class check-in with the comment that I had been there since 1pm., then of course the computer terminal was not working so that worked out as a 15 minute performance.
Uneventful flight to Frankfurt, however when we got there is as if Egypt had followed us, and the normal efficient Germans slipped up, the door at the end of the Skyway was locked and no one could open it, so after about 15 minutes we were directed through another door on to bus and taken to the arrival terminal in that manner.
The flight to Warsaw had departed, the airport Sheraton hotel was 225, which was just too much so I went to Mariiott courtyard which was a few minutes away by courtesy bus and 95. Only problem is the seven o'clock bus in the morning is full so I have to take the 6 a.m. bus. But that is part of the joys of travel.