Saturday, April 3, 2010

Time to go!! We left home at 1pm and got to the airport uneventfully. Our flight on British Airways to Jo’burg was quite pleasant (and coming from me that’s saying something!)

Being Good Friday, Jo-burg airport was very quiet. We tried to check our luggage in immediately, but were told to come back later. So we went and had a drink at the Keg. On our way back to the check-in counter the girls and I got distracted by some people who were welcoming "who knows who" with vuvuzelas and toyi-toying, for some unknown reason I came over all Proudly South African and got very teary eyed…… I know, it was very weird because I never cry.

We had to queue for ages at the check-in counter and watched in disbelief as a large group of Egyptians checked in multiple enormous suit-cases, huge bags and even a large printer! Talk about excess baggage! I was beginning to doubt that the plane would be ABLE to take off...

We then had a mini-drama when Rox’s boarding pass got lost (now it was Rox’s turn to get all teary eyed!), but Grant sorted out a duplicate and we were finally able to go into the duty free area and have some supper. We had a good meal and then it was time to board and off we went.

Jo'burg airportI hadn’t been comfortable about flying Egyptair (OK I admit, I'm not comfortable about flying. Period), but it was better than expected. The plane was a little tired looking and the loos weren’t the best, but I was soon to discover that that was a typical Egyptian scenario... quite the norm.

We got presented with a 2nd supper at 11:30pm – just as I had dozed off, I refused it, but ended up tucking in to Paula’s salad, simply because it was there.

Finally we tried, and on the whole failed, to fall asleep. Breakfast was presented to us at 4 am – you’ve got to be kidding me!! And an hour and a half later we landed in Cairo.

Egypt Air

I immediately had my first encounter with the scary Egyptian toilet. It seems that flushing is not a big thing in Egypt……

We had no trouble finding the Trafalgar rep, he was standing near to the luggage carousel. After rounding up some other Trafalgar people who had arrived at more or less the same time we set off for our hotels.

Oh my soul, the driving and traffic were eye-opening, or rather eye-shutting, stuff!! 3 lane highways with no lines painted and a very loose regard for the rules of the road.

Cairo is a strangely fascinating place. Pretty it is not, but there is something about it. The buildings are in the main a uniform greyish colour. It seems quite normal to live in an unfinished building and even to keep a couple of goats in the middle of the city. Every family seems to have a satellite dish attached to their building, even if they are living in complete squalor. Not the kind of place you’d want to take your annual holiday, but I’m very glad I’ve seen it.
We arrived at our hotel and as our room was not yet ready, found a spot in the lounge and prepared to wait.
 snooze timetoo tiredThe girls managed to snooze and I had a lovely chat with a fellow tour-mate. His name’s Walter, and he’s also from KZN. He is an Austrian who has lived in South Africa for the last 40 years or so, although you wouldn’t say so, he still has a very broad accent. He’s been on many Trafalgar tours and is extremely well-travelled and interesting to talk to.

The guys eventually decided to take a walk and the girls finally woke up. We watched, fascinated, as nearly every man in the lounge ordered a sheesha pipe at about 10am. We’ve already noticed that smoking is a much loved past-time in Egypt.

When we finally got into our rooms we discovered that we have a lovely view over the Nile. And we spent quite some time watching the traffic in the roads outside the hotel.

view from Ramses HiltonThe Egyptian Museum is just opposite our hotel, but I wouldn’t want to have to cross those roads to get there!

After a much-needed shower (nice Crabtree & Evelyn bath goodies!) we set off to the shopping centre which is just over the road (a very little road, thankfully) It’s quite a strange centre, made up largely of shoe shops! Suits Rox down to the ground ;-)

We decided to have lunch a a Lebanese restaurant. As we have never encountered Lebanese cuisine before, we had no idea what we were doing! We were presented with a basket of various delicious breads – slightly sweet, puffed up ones (very delish), a type of roti and then another type of crispy roti. We had no trouble working out what to do with those – we ate them in about 5 seconds flat. But then the waiter arrived with a bowl of whole veggies – a green pepper, a carrot, a large chilli, a whole cucumber, a tomato and a lemon! What to do? I don’t know whether it was sleep deprivation or culture shock, or what, but we collapsed in fits of giggles as we stared at the veggies… the waiter looked quite worried about us. Grant eventually ate the chilli ;-)

Lebanese restaurant
Grant, Dad and I had various kinds of shish kebab. They came on large charcoal burners with roasted veg, a mound of savoury rice, a roti-type bread and another sort of pizza bread covered in spicy tomato paste and pickled red onion. It was VERY good. We had another silly, giggly moment when Grant announced in all seriousness that he thinks the word “Shish” in “Shish Kebab” comes from the Egyptian word “shisa” which means “hot” – we had to point out to him that “Shisa” is in fact the ZULU word that means “hot”…… funny man!!! The girls opted for Italian food. Rox also had something called a “Moon Cocktail” It was 7-up with a mint syrup and it tasted just like Panado!

We found a tiny little shop near the hotel selling cheap bottled water. Quite important to find a cheap supply as we have been told to even brush our teeth with bottled water.

And then it was back to the hotel for a desperately needed nap. After which we made our way to the Sherlock Holmes Pub in the hotel for happy hour. The girls and I were delighted to discover that they serve good cocktails and as they were 2 for the price of one, we had an exceedingly good time. We only remembered afterwards that we weren’t supposed to be having ice in our drinks! Oops! Fortunately we suffered no ill-effects at all.
We persuaded the manager of the pub to put the Sharks game on, so we got to watch the rugby even though we were so far from home. And our boys won! It almost made me teary-eyed again ;-)

Cairo at night

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