Arriving in Cairo:
The very first stop on our epic 6 month RTW trip was chaotic Cairo. We would soon learn to love it and hate it for pretty much the same reason. We were at the start of this amazing adventure that we had been planning for years so as you could imagine our excitement was hard to control. Our bags were packed, all our belongings had either been sold or packed in a shed at my mother’s house, (Thanks Mum), and we had said our goodbyes. Little did we know what we were about to experience would change our lives forever.
We left Perth Western Australia on the 4th of July 2012 at an unusually reasonable time of 6am. We had a long journey before we would reach Egypt. We had a 9 hour layover at Changi Airport Singapore (If you have to have a layover anywhere in the world Changi Airport Singapore is the place to have it) and a 2 hour stop in Dubai, that we didn’t know we had until the plane landed there. Changi Airport is amazing, it has free Wi-Fi for everyone, and all you need to do is register. We used a lot of Wi-Fi at Changi, we had 9 hours to fill in. There are heaps of restaurants, shops, movie lounges and even a butterfly house. Which we went and visited, unfortunately it was so humid in there that our camera instantly fogged up so we were unable to take any photos. I was even lucky enough to meet Red and Yellow, MM’s.
After a brief stop in Dubai, pretty much just enough to get off the plane walk through the gates, use the bathroom, walk back to your gate and get back on the plane we were landing in Cairo. After negotiating the hectic Cairo customs and paying our $40USD Visa we were greeted by about a trillion screaming taxi drivers all willing to rip us off. We were soon to realise that our transfer was not turning up, only 40 hrs into a 6 month adventure and we were stuck. We had to fend off every Taxi driver in Cairo and figure out how to get to our hotel. It was quite funny how many Taxi drivers were trying to get us in their Taxi’s and how angry they got when we said no. Lucky enough I spotted the man that I was sitting next to on the plane. We had got to chatting and so I thought I’d ask him how much we should pay for a Taxi to our Hotel. The answer was approx 100 Egyptian Pound which was approx $12 AUD at the time. We grabbed the Taxi driver that was the least angry and said 100 Egyptian Pound, a nod and we were off. We followed him past the huge line of angry Taxi drivers, past all the Taxi’s lined up, across the road, at this point I thought maybe this was a bad idea, I don’t think this guy is a Taxi driver. A little further into the car park and to this dodgiest looking old car that was all dinged up that I had ever seen. The driver explained that it was a “New Car”, shit I thought, what was he driving before? How bad are these roads if this is a new car? I was soon to find out why the car looked the way it did. The almost 1hr Taxi ride from the airport to Victoria Hotel was scary to say the least. There is no way a westerner would ever be able to drive in Egypt. They would not understand the road rules or the lack of road rules. You toot your horn almost all the time, you don’t need to drive in lanes, which are marked, I didn’t see a speed limit but I’m sure they would not listen to them anyway.
Our Taxi driver decided to pass the time he was going to give us a tour on our way to our hotel. He was pointing out all the Mosques and churches and was very proud that they have a Mosque and Christian church across the road from each other. At one stage he had just finished explaining to me that there are no car accidents here, while hanging out his window looking backwards and pointing to a Mosque. This scared me a little, not only for him hanging out the window but the fact that there were no seat belts in the Taxi and he was swerving all over the road then we “Almost” had an accident the very first accident in Cairo!!!! I have no idea how we did not crash.
We finally arrived at “The Victoria Hotel” a little rattled but in one peace. We were greeted by the oldest frailest door boy I have ever seen. He quickly grabbed our bags and took them inside before we realised. I think we were stunned he could move let alone grab 2, 25KG backpacks. We were then to find out our 2nd issue of our trip. They did not have our booking? So we paid extra for the same room and up we went. We insisted to carry our own bags but this old Egyptian bloke grabbed them shoved us into this tiny, old lift. Which I think struggled with 3 adult and 2 backpacks. Someone had covered the load limit sign up, which just fills you with confidence, even more so when there is no door on the lift and you can see and touch the floors as they pass you. We tipped the guy with what ever coin we had on us. I thought we had not given him enough, but he was so happy and kept asking to help us for the next few days. I’m guessing we tipped well?
After we had settled into our room we decided we needed to get some Egyptian pound out. So off we wondered looking for an ATM that takes Aussie cards. The first one we found ate my card. Great I thought we have not even been on our trip for 2 days and in Egypt for 3hrs and our card is gone. I sent Kristy my wife inside to try and get someone. I didn’t want to leave her outside by herself as we had only walked 100m from the hotel and Kristy had already been wolf whistled and stared at enough. A man came out fiddled around with the machine and it went dead. He said “Broken, you have another card?” I was not leaving the ATM until that card came out. I made him fiddle some more, the machine turned on, it was rattled a little but 5mins later it spat my card out. Thank Christ for that. But we still have no money. So I tried again, the entire time thinking this is not a good idea. We were shocked when it spat out our card and our money.
We spent the next couple of days until our Contiki tour chilling out in our hotel, getting used to seeing the military with machine guns and tanks in the streets, learning how to cross the road, this is a talent best learnt quickly, it will help you throughout Egypt and starting to enjoy this amazing ancient country.