In December 1996, Peter & Edria went to Egypt.
As a step towards their long term goal to live and work in the Middle East, they flew from Blenheim to Wellington to Auckland to Melbourne to Singapore to Dubai to Cairo. They spent almost two days flying with Air New Zealand and Emirates. The Wellington to Auckland flight was delayed and so Peter & Edria had about forty-five minutes to check their baggage, pay their departure tax and go through customs. (It is usually recommended that you arrive at the airport two hours before international flights to do this.) Emirates was entertaining to fly with – they provided English and Arabic safety instructions and each seat had blankets, neck pillows and a personal touch-screen with six channels of movies and programs to view. Peter & Edria had a ten-hour stopover in Dubai, where Emirates provided them with a hotel room, breakfast and lunch.
Arrival & Traffic
On arrival in Cairo, Peter & Edria bought their Egyptian visas at the airport and were met by many friendly Egyptians, before they got out the door to meet their kiwi tour guide. Cairo traffic is an extremely interesting experience – a warrant of fitness in Egypt requires that a car has good bodywork and a working horn. To get a drivers license in Egypt, you must drive forward and then reverse through a set of cones – it doesn’t matter if you knock cones over, but you shouldn’t stop. Road signs and traffic lights only apply when accompanied by a policeman, and any car in front has right of way. Horns are used constantly instead of indicators (bicycles use telephone bells to warn they are coming) and if there are lanes marked on the road as many cars, donkeys, buses, trams, motorbikes and pedestrians as possible can fit across the road (usually five vehicles across three lanes).
The hotel in Zamalek, an island on the Nile, was fairly typical of Egypt – multi-story with new floors added on top of aging buildings, shuttered windows, and paper-less toilets (a spout pointing up from the toilet bowl provided for washing oneself. A visit to the local supermarket for foreigners, obtained the Western comfort of a roll of tissue and bottled water (as most of Egypt’s water comes from the Nile and is irregularly chlorinated). Breakfast was provided daily and consisted of an egg, bread, jam, cheese and a glass of tea. Sami, the hotel proprietor, got Peter to obtain some duty-free alcohol – an exercise in beauracry, with a visit to about seven people for signatures and stamps to make a purchase.
Places to see
- Saladin Mosque: Good views of Cairo smog.
- Musuem: Lots of dead things.
- Windows of the World (Hilton Hotel): Impressive views of traffic, sunset.
- The Pyramids: Bigger and closer to Cairo than we thought.
- The Sphinx: Impressive.
- Karnak and Luxor Temples (Luxor) : Lots of monuments with heiroglyphics
- Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Valley of the Workers (Luxor): Empty tombs with lots of pictures on the walls. Some roomy, some claustrophobic.
- German Mission Hospital: Edria got her broken ankle plastered.
- The Nile: Sailing on a Feluca.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere
- Changing Buses: Middle of the night stop somewhere.
- The fort: Cool castle. Fun to explore.
- Roman ruins: Amazing excavation. Found ancient Greek or Roman graffiti on the Theatre seats.