Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Land of the Pharaohs - The Arrival

It would have been quite the spectacular, flying into Cairo during the day. Unfortunately I arrived at just around midnight. The lights are a nice sight, but no aerial view of Giza and the pyramids for me. I guess I’ll have to wait until my departure.

I pulled in and cleared customs pretty easily, and buzzing with excitement. Walking through to the arrivals area and entrance to the taxi and limousine rank, I was hit with a big ole spoonful of Cairo. There were hundreds and HUNDREDS of people (including kids) yelling and waving crap around. So amongst all that, I had to find my driver, who was going to be holding a sign with my name on it. Huh. Well, turns out there was a mix-up between me and the hotel, and the driver had come yesterday. BUT I didn’t find that out until the second time I made a phone call to the hotel. Up until then, they had told me that he was coming 10-15 minutes. Oy.

Seeing as I wanted to wait for my hotel’s driver initially, I stood around for approximately an hour and 15 minutes before I made that second call to the hotel to find out what the heck was happening. During this time I fended off the advances of numerous drivers who were battling for my business. I’m serious, they get really territorial and will stand there yelling at each other. Not in a particularly nasty way, because I think they all have a pretty polite understanding.

There was this one guy in particular, who stood next to me for a solid 45 minutes in the hope that I would use his limousine. Poor guy. When I finally did get onto the hotel again and found out no driver was coming and that I’d have to catch a cab, I didn’t even use him because he was way too expensive and refused to yield to my superior bargaining skills (scoff). Ah well, that’s his fault. Clingy Clive, I liked to affectionately call him.

The limo driver I went with finally took me to leave the damn airport (I had had enough of Cairo International by that stage). By the way – a ‘limo’ is actually a car that is roadworthy. Usually a reasonably fancy sedan or hatchback. Don’t get any ideas of me driving through Cairo in a stretch. OK, the driver, Hussain, took me out of the airport and headed to Downtown Cairo. Now, Hussain’s nickname could be nothing less than ‘Crazy Hussain’. He was a very nice guy, he just drove like Raikkonen on Bundy Rum.

I have a new perspective of traffic ‘weavers’ in the Western world. I still hate them, but I’ll just think, “Oh well, at least they’re not driving in Egypt”. It was that ridiculous.

 When I asked my driver back at the airport if he could drive me to my hotel, and his eyes lit up, he smiled and said “Of course!”, I naturally assumed he knew where it was. Instead, we were constantly pulling alongside cars and he’d be yelling out for directions. Then one time he pulled over, left me in the car and walked into a shop to ask the owner for directions. However, Hussain’s truly defining moment was when he reversed 400 metres up a one way street. I wasn’t worried, and actually had a chuckle at the hilarity of it. He would go back and then pull over to let cars pass. It was a pretty busy street, too.

I gotta give him this though, he got me to the hotel. Having not died on my first day in Egypt, I was happy.

I checked in, and finally got to sleep.

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