God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Cairo, Camels and Chaos--But First the Background

December 26, 2010--we were hit by a lightening stroke of total brillance--why not go to Egypt and Jordan for Christmas 2011? After all, Casey had been mesmerized by Egypt in 6th grade when a teacher brought it alive for him. Ken and I had fantasized about someday seeing this "far away" place ever  since our first encounters with the National Geographic. Thus, in our rather unorthodox minds, it made sense to spend Christmas vacation in these ancient Biblical lands--the lands of Moses and Exodus and pharaohs.

January 18, 2011--having talked with a friend who recommended a great resource in Cairo who would plan our trip for us, having then checked with other people who had used his services and exchanged a convoluted series of e-mails with Ahmed Hamed Yousif we sent a rather hefty deposit via a bank transfer.

January 25, 2011--the Egyptian Revolution erupted in full measure, no little preparatory events leading up to it--suddenly it was just there. People were desperately trying to get out of Egypt, the US State Department was evacuating staff and families, airports were not functioning due to demands, pictures on the internet were intimidating and frightening, camels were being driven through the streets, people were dying. It was a time of confusion.

Our first thought was to cancel our plans so I contacted Ahmed about returning our deposit which could be done by reversing the transfer--I had checked that with our bank. Ahmed returned with a 15 page e-mail (he likes to write) telling us how actually things in Cairo were not unsafe--only in the area of demonstration--Tahrir Square, and that life in general was just moving on as normal. He assured us that there was no reason to cancel at that time and encouraged us to just to wait and see. So....we gulped large and decided to "just wait and see" although it seemed rather difficult to believe what Ahmed was saying.

THE Ahmed 
Can you believe this scene? Where is everybody?

We then made our business class (it is a long ride from San Diego to Los Angles to New York to Egypt) plane reservations using award points. If we decided not to go, we could redeposit the miles (for a fee, of course.) As we would not need to give anymore money to Ahmed until we arrived in Cairo, the most we could lose would be the deposit--so we decided to gamble a while longer. Of course, by now the possibility of trip insurance was nil.

As the months moved on, we had frequent discussions about the wisdom of going--sometimes we were sure we would while other times we were pretty well convinced that it wasn't going to happen.  Ahmed was always encouraging while friends, for the most part, thought we were crazy. Each time there was a new outbreak of violence, the second guessing would renew; however, there was never a time when it seemed appropriate to throw in the towel. The US State Department was just advising to be careful and stay away from demonstrations--well, yeah! If they had ever said not to go, we would have listened.

The upshot of all of this was that we boarded our first plane at 6:41 am on Thursday, December 15 and arrived in Cairo  19 hours later at 11:45  am on Friday, December 16. The flights were easy, Egypt Air business had flat beds so we slept, the food was actually good and the attendants were the best we have experienced in years--harkening back to when it was fun to fly. We were ready to explore and experience.

Mohammed and Mohammed met us at the airport, loaded our luggage into a beautiful air-conditioned, comfortable van and we headed out to Giza and our first hotel The Oberoi Mena House.  We were somehow upgraded to a suite in the old palace part of the hotel--nice! And..this is what we saw from our window...

Breathtaking and surreal.

Next: Cairo, Camels and Chaos and We Finally Meet Ahmed


Trekcapri said...

Hi Jane, wow I love your group photo with the pyramids in the background. and what an incredible view from your room.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of your photos and reading about your experiences.

Thank you so much for sharing.

barb cabot said...

Wonderful post and just amazing photos. Anxious to read the continuing adventure.

sandrac said...

Jane, it's wonderful to hear the details of your trip planning -- I know it was very stressful weighing all the pros and cons of going. But you must be so happy that you were able to do it. And what an incredible view from your window!!!

Looking forward to hearing more!

Becca said...

So excited you are back and we get to hear all about your trip!

nancyhol said...

So glad to hear about your trip from the very beginning!

Looking forward to the next episode.

Robert Santa Monica said...

Thanks Jane for the blog. Looks to be a fascinating trip. Can't wait to read more.

yrs, Robert