Retreating to Espana

Authored By Brian

Leaving Cairo, it certainly feels like retreat as my Egyptian travels come to an end. I’m sitting in Air France business class flying over the Mediterranean en route to Paris CDG before connecting to Madrid this afternoon. I picked my seat using Travelocity yesterday and was surprised I could pick seats 1-8, assuming this plane did not have anything other than coach. It’s a nice surprise, after the hustle and bustle of Cairo, to recline back in my comfy chair and put the foot rest up while checking on my on-demand in-flight entertainment.

Twenty minutes later and we’ve put a two-course meal consisting of cheeses, breads and pate followed by some roast duck with potatoes behind us. This is sweet. Since I have power in business class, I can use my Juice iGo to play music on my laptop for the flight. A shout out to vFive in 1999, I’m listening to some “big booty hoes” by DJ Assault.

I can hear George Costanza yelling, ‘They screw you Jerry, they screw you!’

Back to retreating. Cairo is a place that can break you rather quickly. Standing out in the crowd made me a target for non-stop “help” by everyone and their brother. No one ever gives you a five pound bill meaning you’re always tipping in tens. That’s ok until you hand a ten and the guy looks a bit disgusted and motions for more money. When we arrived at the airport and took a Mercedes “limo” (e.g., car with air conditioning) to the Nile Hilton, it cost 80EGP. When I requested the same service from the hotel to the airport, I walked out front to see a shiny black late model Mercedes and was pleased my Cairo trip would end on a positive note. Instead, I was ushered to a Hyundai rental car driven by the hotels’ Avis rental car manager. The price? 110EGP.

I simply don’t have the fight in me. I can’t battle everyone over everything. After yesterday, they could have charged me 100USD and I would have caved. I can hear George Castanza yelling “they screw you Jerry! They screw you!”

The Cairo airport is its own story. It visually seems very intolerant of any kind of disobedience. There are police by the boatload, all of whom carry weapons ranging from a holstered pistol to some Russian-style automatic weaponry and flak jackets. They stand at the door, like you might see at SFO, but they also stand at the metal detectors, the passport counters, the ticket counters, the stairs, bathrooms and cafeterias. It looks as though if anyone went buckwild up in the place that you might wind up with a John Wu-style shootout with very unfavorable odds. Looks can be deceiving though. I was waiting in line to go through the metal detector at the gate and in the next line over (a flight to NYC), a few voices arose from the din and I picked up on this guy in track pants and an untucked white polo starting to argue with an airport employee.

Within seconds, this is a full-scale yelling match with each side scoring point after point and gaining an audience. Raised voices are one thing, but these guys have their hands on each other. This attracted the attention of the tourist police who dismissed the airline employee and picked up where he left off berating the customer. This goes on for about five minutes until it seemed like everyone just ran out of breath and I was through the metal detector and out of earshot.

Egypt was awesome regardless of everything; it’s impossible to not be fascinated and I would definitely go back again. But I will be prepared next time with a tight fistful of fives and a bad attitude.

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