It was early morning on our last day in Egypt, we were picked up from our hotel in a rather unusually clean, neat and dent free van for Egypt by a very fluent English speaking Egyptian man and a driver who spoke not a word. As we were loading our bags into the van we witnessed our very first bit of aggression in Egypt. Yes we had been hassled and stared at the entire time in Egypt but this morning the usually rather quite for Cairo street corner was in a ruckus. Directly outside our hotel lobby was a full on fight. There were approx 10 guys all yelling there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on. This was both intriguing and a little worrying as we were only a block away from Tahrir Square which was the site of the all the violence and protesting throughout the revolution. Was this an insight in to something to come???
Before we knew it we were on the road and we felt safe, well for now. The roads were unusually busy for this time of the day even for Cairo’s lofty standards. We hit traffic almost as soon as we hit the bitumen and our driver and transfer guy were talking a little too quite for my liking even though they knew far too well that I could speak no Arabic. Then the driver took a turn down a side street. My wife turns to me and asks do you know where we are going? To which my reply was sure I know all the back streets in Cairo…. We drove down more and more side streets each dodgier then the last. I remember looking at the doors of the van and making sure that they were all locked, but then thinking is that a good thing or not? What if I need to make a quick run for it? Are these doors child locked? We drove passed something that resembled a local tip. But as far as I could see it was just a car park that had a few broken down half stripped cars and the free space around them was a good place to chuck all the apartments rubbish. The roads were getting rougher and rougher and skinnier and windier and just overall dodgier.
We had been in the van for over an hour now and we were starting to get worried that we might either miss our flight or worse not make it out of Egypt. You could just think what our over stimulated imagination was doing to us. I had all these ideas of what was going happen, what I would do if the worse did happen and trying to keep an eye on the way that we came in just in case we needed to run for it? But that was useless as sack of hammers, the roads were so windy and every corner looked the same just maybe more dilapidated then the previous one. I managed to gather the courage to ask our transfer guy were we were. To which he replied the traffic was bad so we take a short cut just 5 more
minutes. I took this as “We are buggered” and so did my wife. The bitumen gave way to desert sand and even more unfinished apartments then before. We drove passed a makeshift mechanical workshop under an apartment block. Out front there were a bunch of “Half Cars” yes half cars. They were stacked up 3 high in this very narrow laneway. A bunch of very dodgy looking guys hanging around smoking. We then stopped at this corner. It might have been a shop or even a brothel who knows. There was an old man sitting on a rackety old chair at a white dusty table smoking a huge extravagant Shisha pipe. I thought to myself this is it and by the look on my wife’s face so did she. I gave her a re-ashoring look and crossed my fingers.
Our Transfer guy wound down his window and started speaking to the old man. There was a lot of pointing and nodding but the entire thing was very calm. I noticed my own breathing slowed down and even I felt calm, then we were off again. Down some more side streets, passed a few men on donkeys carry all types of goods unassumingly to market then we popped out on this major hwy, I was stunned. I was certain we had managed to make our way completely out into the sticks. That Ghetto we drove through for the last two and half hours was right in the middle of Cairo. We had to dodge heaps of traffic because we were not on an on ramp, more just a dirt track that was made by the locals to get access to this huge hwy. Across 3 or 4 lanes up onto the medium for a U-Turn and we were presumably heading to the Airport.
When we arrived at the airport the Transfer guy asked us for our passports. Now we guard our passports with our lives and really do not like to hand those over, especially to a guy that got us lost for over two hours in the dodgiest part of Cairo. He explained that it is job and that we should give him our passports. I looked at him for a while and decided to hand him our passports. He then walked us up to the counter, read all the crazy signs, helped us get through customs and right up to our gate. He filled out our forms and explained to us our flight details and even what to expect. It was a huge help as we would of really struggled to get through that maze of Arabic and would of tried to fill out the form in English, as he explained would of caused even more drama. We were ever so grateful for his help and now were so relieved that we had actually made it there safely. We thanked him and handed him a tip. Still very new to the tipping thing we hoped it was enough. His smile and a big thankyou made us feel we did ok.
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