Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Egypt! And I need to sleep!

Many of you already know the basic gist of this trip: I have 2 months, no set itinerary, a Eurail pass, and a nebulous wish list of places to go. My first leg was set, since my friend Sundae was taking a spring break trip to visit her friend in Cairo, studying at AUC. So I've decided to tag along for some of that trip. I'm now in Cairo, and we're going to meet at the Egyptian Museum later today.

But the interesting part, of course, is how I've gotten here. My flight left SFO at 17:15 PDT, where I connected through London Heathrow, to Cairo. Now, I had scheduled about 3 hours for the layover, during which I switched airlines, and because they were booked in separate chunks, I couldn't check my bags all the way through*, so I had to go through Customs, then back through security. I wasn't sure if it'd be enough, given how into standing in queues the Brits are, but I called British Airways and they said I'd be fine.

My first leg was 10 hours, and I slept a bit, but probably not more than 3 or so hours, then woke up and couldn't get back to sleep for the rest of the flight. I land in Heathrow, and in fact because of a favorable tailwind, we were half an hour early. Great! I spend some time trying to figure out where Egypt Air checks in, meandering around the terminal I arrived in, until I concluded that they probably weren't here. I finally found a help desk, which pointed me to the correct terminal, and I still had a little over 2 hours before my departure time, 14:00 GMT. In fact, they hadn't even selected the gate, so I was fine. I got some lunch, milled around the correct terminal, checked in, milled around some more. Finally, they assign the gate, so I head over there and dive into my book.

Boarding was supposed to start at 13:30 GMT, and oblivious to my watch, I just keep reading at the gate. Finally, I look down, and see that it's almost 13:45. "Huh, that's odd... but everyone's still here". About 10 minutes after that, they make an announcement that there's been some sort of mechanical... thing. So we have to wait, but they'll update us in 15 minutes. I jump back into my book. 15 minutes later, still no news, but they promise to update us in another 15 minutes. This continues a few times, and eventually they just stop updating us. But still, clearly no boarding. Some of the flight attendants bring around bottles of water and soda for the increasingly antsy passengers. But by this point, it's 16:00 and we haven't been updated for the last 45 minutes or more.

Finally, around 17:00, a full 3 hours after we were supposed to leave, they start letting us on the plane. I ask one of the flight attendants, "So what exactly was the problem." "Oh, I don't know. Probably some indicator light. If it was a real problem, though, they would've canceled the flight." I am somehow not reassured, but the flight goes on without a hitch. I doze for a little bit (maybe an hour around the beginning of the flight, I"m not sure), and then read for the rest of it. We land at just after midnight EET(?), when we were supposed to be down by 8PM. This is a problem for me, since I had planned on taking the bus to my hostel, but that stops running at 23:00. So instead of paying 2L.E. in bus fare (approximately 35 cents US), I have to haggle with a taxi driver and finally get it down to 70 L.E. I guess 15 bucks isn't so bad for a 15 mile taxi drive from an airport in the US, but still more than I was anticipating.

I get to my hostel at 1:30, where they chastise me for not letting them know I was going to be late, but show me into my room. And because my body slept for a bit on the plane, it decided, "Hey! I don't need to sleep". So I tossed and turned the whole night, on a lumpy bed. Finally, around 6:30 as it's getting light, I just say "aw screw it" and continue reading my book, take a shower, and write this blog post.


* I also wasn't sure I wanted to check my bags all the way through... the last time I went to Cairo, my main suitcase didn't show up for a few days, because while I made the connection in Moscow, it didn't. Damned Aeroflot. Russian efficiency for you.


  1. So, what's your impression of the convenience at Heathrow?

  2. Aside from having to switch terminals and re-check my bags? Not bad. It wasn't the most comfortable airport I've been to, but there are definitely worse (including SJC).