Thursday, July 28, 2011

Diary of a Traveller, part 1

I'm currently sat in Cairo International Airport waiting for my flight to Amsterdam. Usually when I'm flying out of Cairo, I'll take the bus from Hurghada and then make my way to the airport. After my last trip on the bus, which was disastrous to say the least, I vowed that I would never again be sat on that bus.

This morning, I flew from Hurghada. The flight is so short, you literally take off, finish your beverage, and are told to re-fasten your seatbelts. AWESOME. I love short flights, especially when the alternative is a 5 hour (minimum) ride in a bumpy, smelly, sweaty, often times roller coaster take your life in your hands bus ride.

Flying over Hurghada allowed me to take some fantastic pictures. It reminds me every day of how lucky I am to be able to wake up living here, despite its ups and downs. When you live by this, you have to count your blessings.

Birds eye view of Hurghada's coastline

Travelling to me has always been an adventure. I am constantly reminded of the incredibly true sentiments expressed in the film "Fight Club," of the single serving friends. The single serving drinks. The single serving meals. I'm currently enjoying my single serving pizza slice, with my single serving coffee. I have met many single serving friends travelling; sitting in the airport I wonder where in the world they are today.

I think one thing that "Fight Club" film failed to portray in their narrative on airports and travel was the advantage of such 'single serving' experiences. I love the emotional atmosphere in an airport. Name me one other place in the world that you can relish in people watching in such extreme states. Joy at being reunited with a family; fatigue following many long hours of flight only to head into yet another business meeting; tears for those departing their loved ones; and the oh so familiar human sprint for people rushing to their gates before it closes, having almost missed their flights. Or one of my personal favourites: People with carry on luggage that is evidently far too large, yet are convinced with their continued thrusting, jostling, pushing and squeezing that they will morph their bag into a shape that will miraculously fit the overhead bins.

Two things to always remember when travelling - aside the obvious passport and ticket :p - a good book and some good music. I have flown many times in the past few years without the addition of a laptop that runs on batteries, let alone one with wifi access. Today, I am spoiled :D.

My trusty literature companion today is fitting in many ways.

So far so good, I'm enjoying the erratic writing style, and the familiarity that the author creates with the reader.

Today also marks the first time that I have come through the airport since the Jan 25th Revolution. One thing that struck me were the inspirational posters that are hung up throughout the airport. There were three hanging over baggage claim in the Domestic arrivals. I have yet to see any in the International Terminal. If I do I will be sure to snap some shots. 

Also surprising is the lack of Army or Security in general in the airports. I flew from Hurghada without having my passport checked once; thankfully I really am who I say I am, but that makes me nervous for the security situation in this country. I could have literally been anyone using my ticket! Also here in Cairo Airport is a lack of security. One thing not lacking though are the flocks of people evidently heading to Saudi Arabia for a mini-hajj pilgrimage before the beginning of Ramadan. Women dressed in long flowing white robes and hijabs are everywhere; fortunately I do not yet have to brave the crowd as I have a bit of a layover.

Oh, and for those who are wondering about the system of corruption in Egypt: The very long queues make for prime pickings for those looking for a weary traveller to extort. I was approached by someone who enthusiastically took my bags, assuring me he "knew the line to get in to." He takes me to the second baggage control point, and tells me "the policeman there will take baksheesh (tips) for you to have no line." much baksheesh? "Well, he's boliceman (spelling intended), so nice baksheesh." I politely took my bags back, and went to sit in the cafe. Nice to see some things never change though :)

PS - word to the wise for Cairo airport employees. The free bus shuttle service from one terminal to the next is great. But please instruct your bus drivers to announce where they are stopping. I almost got off in the wrong place THREE times, having been assured that the bus goes directly to Terminal 1. I suppose in some ways I did have to be reminded I was in Cairo, and lucky not to have taken the bus. Rather than the 5 hours in a dank and smelly bus, I had 10 minutes in the crowded, leap while still moving, airport shuttle bus.

Now off to continue the rest of my adventures. In the meantime, feast your eyes on some of these beautiful pictures.

Red Sea morning!

Who said Cairo was in the desert? LIES! ;)

Fertile Nile Valley

Another sign in the airport :)

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