Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cairo: Expedited Arrival

Transferring in Istanbul on Turkish Air
Yesterday I arrived in Cairo, but not before a lovely stop-over in one of my favorite cities of the world. If you enjoy diversity, Istanbul has it all! Walking through the airport is like a trip through culture - and time - with bands of religious pilgrims, tourists, families - and of course unmistakable glances from the gays (or just curious guys?) - I love Istanbul. Plus, it's one of the most beautiful cities too. I had the chance to spend extra time here - well over it - because we circled the airport for an extra 20 minutes before landing.

My arrival in Cairo was dark - but the city was ablaze with light - much of it from the incredible traffic below. I knew it wouldn't be a quick trip into the city - but thankfully it was a simple trip through the airport. With only carry on luggage and help from an expediter (clearly the only way to arrive in an airport in the Middle East). You don't even need to speak with immigration or customs officials & I was to an (also arranged) driver in less than 10 minutes. Normally I like to act like a local on arrival - but my friend said with things as they are - not a good idea.

Note where the white dotted line is here...
"How are things in Cairo?," I asked my expediter in line for Immigration. "Great.." he began to say, said, but was quickly interrupted by a young Egyptian who emphasized with passion that things were not good (clearly he meant the political environment). They exchanged words in Arabic, and he left us - my new friend told me not to listen to him: he was rude to interrupt us; I had simply asked a general question - not a broader political one. Things here were good, he relayed (just different than perhaps the US, France etc...). I just smiled - clearly, a proud Egyptian wanting to give me a friendly experience here versus a youthful agitator (?) perhaps. Guess which one I would rather have got into a discussion with... this would be the only disadvantage of said expediter: you're at his will.

My first sunrise in Egypt over the Nile!
Driving in the Middle East is pure excitement - unless of course you're new at it. It's like floating on lazy river - here of course you're not bumping off each other - but it almost feels that way as cars do get very close - and sort of wobble back and forth together. Dotted lines are totally ignored as traffic floats along - jamms up - but then releases; cars simply go where their space, or where they want to. Don't expect to get many places quickly in Cairo - but at least taxis are cheap! Accidents happen of course - but in the US given similar patterns, you'd have constant collisions! Drivers seem somehow to think as one, moving together - yet apart, almost like musical dissonance; it's not stop-and-go, it's speed up, coast, slow and then go again. If you're new, just don't look ahead, enjoy the view to the side at the sights - or up above at the endless billboards - you'll be ok (but I definitely wore my seatbelt).

Important Tip:  Don't forget - it's customary to sit up front with the driver if you're riding solo in a taxi in the Middle East.


  1. Question for those of us who might think of visiting Egypt: how did you get an "expediter" of confidence ? In advance ? How ? Same question for the Airport taxi. Can't wait to read about the rest of your trip, as I (as a single guy) hesitate to travel to Egypt.

    1. Hi Canmex! Contact me on Fb Ashton Giese if you need more info on Cairo. Sorry missed this

    2. So sorry. Missed this. Contact me at Ashton Giese on Facebook. Hope to talk soon. Lots more.