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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Return to Cairo - 2018

We lost a month of our winter vacation in Egypt dealing with the final stages of our townhouse remodel.  December and January were two of the coldest (but not the snowiest) winter months in recent memory in the Twin Cities.

As the temperatures dropped below zero during December we even had the chance to talk about that wonderful point where Fahrenheit and Celsius scales show a common value  of minus 40.  Yes, it actually got that cold in the appropriately named Embarrass, Minnesota on December 27th, 2017.

While all sensible creatures migrate South for this period of time, the red-tailed hawk that hangs around in the tree outside our back window takes it all in stride.  He can't read the thermometer, after all.


Since we were not leaving until after the end of January, we waited an extra week so that I could watch the Superbowl - hosted right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis - before leaving.  Our departure was on Tuesday afternoon for Atlanta and most of the plane was filled with football fans returning after a pleasant stay in the area.  We made a rare departure to the south on runway 17 rising over the Mall of America after leaving the airport.

The lighting and shadows gave a surreal appearance to the winter landscape as we climbed out over the southern suburbs.

We changed planes smoothly at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport moving onto another Delta flight, this one operated by Air France staffed by French flight attendants headed by a chief steward with a haughty French attitude.  This was a 777 with very nice flight electronics displays.

The captain's initial weather report detailed the temperature in Paris at -2C with snow falling.  Oh-oh!

Upon arrival, some seven and a half hours later, we found Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport operating with a single runway and most connecting flights described as "cancelled or delayed."

Our connecting Air France plane for the flight to Cairo was already at the gate needing only fuel, baggage and passengers.  Air France international operations requires a second security screening.  And why not?  The signs indicate that poultry, ham and cheese are prohibited in our carry-on luggage and we had been checked for none of these in Minneapolis.  On the other hand, we were not entering France - just passing through.

The media described Paris as "Grinding to a Halt."  In practical terms, that means that the security personnel, baggage handlers and fuel-truck drivers couldn't get to work that morning.  It took a good hour and a half to make it through the security check. The reported 10-15 cm of snow would have been merely an annoyance in Minneapolis but in Paris it even shut down the Metro. But isn't that underground? Oh, those crazy French!

Air France remained optimistic, announcing a one to one-and a half hour delay several times.  Each time they did this, they called our telephone number in Minneapolis and announced the delay to our house-sitter in the wee-hours of the morning.

The terminal is laid out with travel efficiency in mind.  Seating is abundant.  Rest rooms, food, drink and retail are sparse.  You want a drinking fountain?  No one drinks the water in Paris, my friend.  How gauche!
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If the terminal design looks vaguely familiar, you may recall seeing pictures of the collapse of part of the structure back in 2004.

We boarded the plane for Cairo about five hours late.  They were still fueling the beast and the pre-flight announcements suggested not buckling our seat belts in case an emergency evacuation should be necessary.  The French are nothing if not frank.

Our arrival in Cairo was at the modern Terminal Two.  If you have not been to Cairo International lately, you will be pleasantly surprised at this modern first-rate airport terminal.  This view of the sparkling clean and hassle-free baggage claim area is quite a contrast to what you might have experienced in the past.

Unfortunately, we had no bags on those shiny carousels.  The hundred and fifty or so passengers from the Paris flight filing lost luggage claims were handled in about an hour.
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It was Linda's misfortune to be behind the lady filling out claims for eight bags.

From that point, things went very smoothly. Our friend, Roshdy, had patiently waited a few hours for our arrival and whisked us home in his new car. Our building now has a security lock on the front door and Sayed, our bawaab, had a key waiting for us.  Our neighbors across the hall decorated our front door to greet us and Rusty, the building's mouse abatement cat, remembered us and greeted us enthusiastically.

It is now about forty-eight hours since we arrived and our luggage is still in an undisclosed location.


1 comment:

Aliza said...

So many fun parts to this post! The aerial view of Minnesota; Rusty the mouse abatement cat; the frankness of French airplane/airport announcements; the lady filling out 8 (count 'em, 8!) luggage claims; etc.

Welcome back to your other home, Tom & Linda! Elf mabruk and alhumdilallah!