May 23-24: Los Angeles to Cairo

Waiting in the Lufthansa line at LAX and observing the good-looking international crowd, I was once again reminded of how fat Americans are.  Maybe that's why I like to travel--I fit in more with people who enjoy living, and less with people whose sole hobbies are overeating, complaining and sitting around.

The woman in line in front of me (with a German accent) said she's married to an Egyptian and lived in Egypt for 5 years.  They vacationed there the November before the Gulf War and it was great because there were no crowds.  Kind of like now.

The flights (LA to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Cairo) were uneventful.  On the transatlantic leg (747 I think) there weren't TV screens at every seat--just the big ones overhead.  One of the flight attendants looked a little like Teri Garr, or maybe a less manly Steffi Graf.  On the FRA-CAI leg they gave us metal utensils with the meal.  Metal!  On a flight half full of Arabs!

I had "Walk Like an Egyptian" in my head for most of LAX-FRA, until the monitor showed that we were over Belfast, at which point it was replaced by "Sunday Bloody Sunday".  For the record, I saw thousands of carvings and paintings throughout the tour, and nary a one depicted anyone "walking like an Egyptian" with the hands extended and whatnot.

On arrival in Cairo I had my temperature checked with a neato forehead strip thing.  I was met by a tour representative who escorted me through customs and on to the hotel (an hour away).  I was surprised at how fast I got out of the airport--the plane landed at 7 PM and we were on the road by 7:30 PM.

En route to the hotel I was struck by how nice Cairo looked, at least in comparison to Mumbai.  It didn't smell either.  Along the freeway there was a billboard for Chili's (easier to get to a Chili's in Cairo than in LA!).  I also saw the Pyramids from the freeway.

The group was supposed to meet at 7 PM, but due to my arrival time I had to miss the meeting.  A few minutes after I checked into the hotel, the tour manager called my room and asked if he could cruise by and meet me.  He gave his name but in my exhausted state it didn't click.  A few minutes later I opened the door and there stood my old European Escapade tourmate Dave Morris.  I'd kept in sporadic contact with him since our 2001 tour and I knew he'd been hired by Contiki as a tour manager, but the probability that he'd be on this tour was so small that I didn't even consider it.  Amazing.  This connection was useful because there were an odd number of single guys on the tour, and Dave put me in the single room every night except on the train.  (Thanks, mate!)

By the way, for those of you who remember Dave from BE723, he no longer sports that Prince-like facial hair art project.  I'm assuming Contiki made him shave it, in the same way that Jason Giambi had to shave his goatee to meet the Yankees' rigid grooming standards.  Or like when Mr. Burns kept demanding that Don Mattingly trim those sideburns.

The hotel area (all the rooms were in one-story structures, spread out) started to stink, but I later learned that they were burning kerosene to ward off mozzies.  I saw the same thing in downtown Cairo around nightfall.

Because of my post-flight condition (no sleep, filthy, contacts in for 2 days straight) I declined an invitation for drinks, and just showered and hit the sack.