Day 1: What Happened To Salman?

Leaving the hotel in London to get to Gatwick Airport became a hassle pretty quick. I thought I was going to fly out of Heathrow, but instead at the very last moment while checking out, I realized I was leaving out Gatwick.

They’re in complete opposite directions. With only 30 minutes to spare to get to the airport I couldn’t take any chances and sought a black cab to take me there as fast as possible.

Note to all: Telling a cab driver in London (or probably anywhere) that you would APPRECIATE if he got you there as soon as possible, and that you would APPRECIATE it very much usually does the trick. Of course, make sure you appreciate with the local currency.

We got there in 28 minutes. It’s a 45 minute drive.

When I got to the airport, I waited at the BMI counter to get checked in, and what do you know… I can only take one bag to Cairo. Apparently, throughout Europe, flying with one checked in bag is normal and two bigs is an extra charge. I managed to stuff both bags in one bag, and get away with not paying an overage charge (of which I will not go into detail).

View of Cairo International

View of Cairo International

The flight to Cairo was uneventful and uncomfortable. It definitely wasn’t British Airways. As soon as I got to the airport, just like any other country in the middle east, there are big mean looking people walking around with automatic weapons and blaring radios which seem to give off more static than actual communication.

Getting a visa wasn’t that hard and the airport itself seems pretty simple for such a large touristy city.

My friend, Salman, wasn’t supposed to arrive until 2 hours after me, but the 2 hours turned into 3. Egyptian border authorities aren’t known to be the friendliest (Egyptian secret police is ranked as the most brutal in the world), so I was a little worried.

There ended up being a long delay at the visa line because of a few planes arriving at once, and when he came out we finally made it outside, and that’s where our experience with Egypt began.

The look of a cabbie who is about to take advantage of a couple of Americans.

Our inagural “ripping off” happened right outside the airport. Several cab drivers came to haggle us with all sorts of outrageous prices, and we decided to walk as far away from the airport as possible to get our fare, and it wasn’t too bad. We overpaid several dollars, but at least we made it to the hotel fine.

The hotel itself was pretty nice. Internet fast, staff at the front very cordial, recommended by Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor, and it was in the heart of downtown Cairo.

Walked around, grabbed some shiwarmas (not tasty at all), headed back to the hotel and caught some sleep.

Tomorrow : Al-Ahzar Mosque, Khan el-Khalili, and just milling around.

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