The adventures started straight away on my trip from Riyadh to Cairo. After saying goodbye to my parents, the visa officers decided there was a problem with my passport- I might not even be able to get OUT of the country. (How many countries can you have that problem in??) One officer then completely disappears with my passport, and I stumble through my limited Arabic vocabulary trying to understand:
a) why can’t I leave, and
b) where the hell have you taken my passport?!
Limited Arabic, no passport, no (functioning) phone, stuck in a crowd full of construction workers returning home to India and Pakistan- and I hadn’t even passed customs yet. Thankfully, Dad was still watching me leave through the gates, and somehow fixed things. Parental magic. Amazing, but not something I can rely on as I set off on a year of travel! (For the record, there was actually nothing wrong with my visa or passport- in an airport where they didn’t even weigh my bags because the scales were broken, I didn’t bother questioning.)
Ready to board, I was directed to get on an empty bus to the plane. I jumped on, then the doors promptly closed and the bus started driving off. Great, I’m not going to make it to the plane. Or I’m going to end up in Zanzibar. Or I’m getting kidnapped.
Or, the driver wanted to go forward quite a way, then reverse so that he was a whole 50cm closer to the building. You know, to save people walking that extra step. Crisis averted.
The excitement set in properly as the plane descended through the thick red-brown blanket of smog that lay over Cairo. Everybody stood up and started collecting their bags as soon as the wheels touched the ground, Middle Eastern style. The air hostess’ half-hearted and futile attempts to re-seat people followed according to script, but then men dressed in pilot uniforms started striding down the aisles yelling at everyone in Arabic to sit down, as there was some sort of problem. People started grumbling, while the gentleman next to me (not realizing I was a foreigner) started trying to explain to me in Arabic what was going on. I still don’t know what the issue was, but I got off the plane eventually.
Through customs, picked up by a driver from the hotel (and his granddaughter), broken Arabic as we drove through absolute chaos, and finally joining Sam at the hotel. Phew!