Saturday, March 06, 2010

Arriving in Cairo

It's a long and grueling trip between Santa Cruz and Cairo, beginning on Friday morning, Feb 19th at 4:00 A.M. I have worked at warp speed for several weeks in preparation for this trip so that I might leave with a moderately clear conscience. We fly first to New York where we connect with many of the others in our group. The flight between New York and Cairo is 11 hours and I sleep relatively well on the flight. I am anxious to de-plane and immerse myself in another culture. Customs is the usual long lines of tired and disgruntled travelers and we need a visa to enter. Our guide is to have pre-purchased all of our visas, but he is out of sight beyond the immigration area and we strain to see past the exit gates. Eventually, we spot a man holding up a Young Living sign, obtain our visas and pass through immigration. We wait impatiently for our bags to appear on the luggage carousel, but all eventually arrive and our guide gathers his flock of weary travelers. Names are checked off of a master list and when we are all accounted for, we are herded out of the terminal and onto the waiting busses. Dusk has fallen and the sky is a rusty indigo, the eerie color a result of the pollution. The atmosphere has a tactile grainy quality, but without the urban smell which seems contradictory to the intense color of the sky. Our bus takes us three minutes to the hotel, but it is 10 minutes before we are allowed to pass through the hotel gates. Security guards check the luggage hold for bombs and drugs and when we disembark and enter the hotel, we walk through a metal detector and our bags are placed on a conveyer belt and x-rayed.

The Iber Hotel is a 5 star property, the glitzy lobby bustling with travelers. When we enter, an engagement party is underway and the well dressed guests mill around the curved staircase leading upstairs to the disco and restaurant. A troop of musicians descend the staircase and belly dancers gyrate to the Arabic music. The lovely young couple is elegantly dressed; she in a form fitting red dress, and he in an expensive suite. The party soon ascends the staircase, retreating into a private dining room. Our Rooms are assigned, but Stephanie and I are not on the room roster. This is resolved shortly but my hopes of going into Cairo for dinner are shattered. Our hotel bubble is nearly an hour from the heart of Cairo and the powers that be seem intent on keeping us confined in our safe bubble. We partake in the elaborate buffet dinner; meet our fellow travelers and retire to our room.

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