27 March 2009

Made it to Egypt

Some of you may have heard. Jeannette and I have been planning on going to Egypt since, well, my employer told me in January I had to take at least 1/2 of my vacation in the 1st half of the year, and at about the same time I found a dirt-cheap flight from München to Cairo.

After a couple of weeks of preparation, everything was set. Finally, the day came. We actually stayed overnight in München (Munich for the German illiterate), since the flight left at noonish. We could have made it from Heilbronn, but it would have meant leaving home at like 4 in the morning, and who wants to do that on the 1st day of vacation?

Anyway, after a fun time in München (despite the gloomy weather), we packed up at a reasonable hour (9-ish) and headed for the airport.

As a fun aside, the München airport is a punny place. Like the shop selling stereotypical Bavarian memorabilia called "Buyern". Ha ha ha! Oh, you didn't get it? What if I told you that "Bavaria" in German is "Bayern". Pronounced "buy-urn". And it is a store. Where you can BUY stuff. Stuff that is related to "Bayern". Fine. Jokes (and puns) just aren't funny when you have to explain them.

Anyway, we got to the airport in plenty of time to make the 2 hour cutoff for international flights (Aren't we perfectly trained by the wonderful TSA?), and played cribbage to w(h)ile away the time. The flight was quite turbulent, but nobody in my vicinity reached for their barf bags (although Jeannette looked ready to strike...). The landing was rough.

We got to Cairo, bought our visas (which, of course, was a completely different procedure from that described in our 1-year-old book), got into the country, hit the bank machine (withdrawing its maximum amount, or about 300 Euros - not quite enough to pay for our hotel in Luxor in advance), made our way to our new terminal (how many times did we tell people, "No, we don't need a taxi, we're just waiting for the bus to Terminal 1"), checked in (again) more than two hours early for our flight to Luxor, and again sat down to play cribbage and wait. Since we flew two different airlines, and we had to get the visas, I planned a 4-hour layover, though things were pretty smooth and we could have done it with merely 2.

As good airline passengers, we shuffled off to our gate with time to spare before the designated boarding time, but that time came and went. We are seasoned travelers, so we are no strangers to flight delays, but there was no information anywhere, and no "two girls behind a counter" (as Jeannette called it) to ask questions to. There was only two guards at the gate with machine guns, that gave me shit the last time because supposedly I had too many AA batteries. Since when has a bundle of AA's brought down a plane?

About 20 minutes after our scheduled departure, a lady in an EgyptAir outfit came in and started yelling something. We hadn't tuned our ears yet to "English with a Cairo accent", so it took us a while to realize she was saying "Flight 201". Our thrill to board was short-lived however, because it turns out she was just passing out juice boxes to help us cope with the delay.

Eventually a man in an EgyptAir uniform came in and made a long announcement in Arabic, which seemed much shorter when he eventually got to English. Flight delayed due to bad weather in Luxor, but it is getting better so maybe we would fly in an hour. OK, that would mean we're 90 minutes late, not the end of the world.

Well, the hour came and went, without any further announcements. It was a waiting game - the guards warned us not to leave, because we could go at any time. So we sat and waited. I finished my book I had hoped to stretch out most of the trip. Jeannette managed to sleep a bit on the uncomfortable chairs. At one point, the brought us sandwiches, and no sooner had we finished them, did they announce that they were boarding our flight! Woo hoo!

The flight was uneventful, though instead of landing at about 21:45 we landed at 3:00 the next day. As we entered the baggage claim area, we saw lots of people picking up passangers with their little signs. Eventually we saw ours, outside the security area. Stupid me, I thought I would tell him we're here and realized too late that I couldn't go back to help Jeannette with the bags. Ooops. I should have known. I blame it on the tiredness.

She managed to lug everything out, and we got to the hotel at a brutal 4:00 am. But the storm had knocked the power out, so we climbed into bed via candle light... The next morning (actually, the same morning) we awoke to braying donkeys and sun streaming in the windows. It was only about 7:30, but the sun was already bright, and the sugar cane fields next to the flat were bustling with activity (much of it involving the previously-mentioned donkeys). The power was still out.

We showered (there was still hot water) and headed downstairs, and met Gamal, one of the housekeepers of the flats and the resident cook. We had mentioned that we wanted to rent bikes to get around, and he made some phone calls, and within 20 minutes or so, we were pedaling away on some old skool Chinese-made bikes that have seen some serious action in their lifetimes. They, for the most part, handle the rough roads of the West Bank fairly well.

Our first destination: The temple known as Medinat Habu. And as proof that we have arrived, I present you this:

Allan's in Egypt!

Notice the book. It says very clearly, "Egypt", so I must be there. You can also note my awesome new European-style glasses, my ultra-nerdy photographer's vest, and the floppy green hat that protects my pasty-white nerd skin from the harsh Egyptian sun.

Sorry it took so long for this. The WLAN has been spotty since the power outage (which wasn't really reliably back online until the 2nd day).

Well, I need to go for now. Since the WLAN doesn't quite reach our flat (yet?), and even when I go to the lobby to use the internet, things are slow (Egypt must have a small or clogged intertube), getting updates will still be a bit sparse. Feel free to check on Ipernity for my latest photos from Egypt.

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