Egypt Day 1: Arriving in Luxor
I was not nervous travelling from Jordan to Egypt. I was a little apprehensive about booking our visit to Egypt, but nothing like my “Holy SHIT we are going to Jordan” post from the year before. Having spent almost 5 weeks in Jordan 6 months prior, I felt relatively comfortable with Arabic culture, but Jordan is a safe haven in a region full of unrest. Egypt should be scary, right? Egypt is dangerous, right?
Yes I did my homework, I read the warnings, not only from travel.gc.ca but also from the American and British versions of the government agency site. The regions we planned to visit, Luxor, Cairo, and Sharm el Sheikh, were not included in the “avoid all but necessary travel” warnings. So we should be fine, right?
I had read blog posts saying that there could be a delay in getting a visa, so I had emailed the Egyptian Embassy in Canada in advance, and they had assured me that I would have no problems obtaining it at the airport on arrival for USD25. At least I had something from someone governmental, assuring me that it should be fine.
Flying into Egypt
I thought I was flying into a desert. But all i can see out my window is lush green farms as we near the Luxor airport. But i guess there should be farms, we are flying over the mighty Nile river. But out the other side, it is brown sand, miles and miles of desert, I guess the Nile does have a limited reach, I think as we touch down smoothly on our Egypt Air flight.
Slowly but evidently, my anxiety starts to mount. I have read to expect a hassle from taxi drivers, street vendors and sellers, who may go as fas as to physically grab you and bring you to their shop. But I have also read that travelling with children can be hassle-free, as Arabs love children, and are eager to help foreigners.
TRAVEL TIP: Don’t carry all of your money in your purse. I ugly suggest a money belt, for your money only, and don’t be going into it during the day. Have enough cash for your day in your pocket, wallet or purse. The idea is that no one knows the money is there. And do not put your passport in there while travelling in an airport when you need to get it out a few times.
We are about to deplane, I hope I can find a SIM card at the airport. Our two hours in Cairo airport did not result in one, and without wifi there, I was unable to download our hotel address or location. Lets hope we make it into our beds tonight!
Picking up one sleeping child, we leave via the rear door and walk down the steps of the plane to a waiting bus, to shuttle us to the terminal.
I could still be anywhere in the world, an airport is an airport, nothing like the world outside. The luggage is already coming out on the carousel; both boys are now awake, awaiting the arrival of our two suitcases. Thankfully we left the booster seats and an extra suitcase in Jordan. Managing two bags feels like nothing!
Slowly the crowd all disappears, but our bags have yet to come on the belt. We wait. Then the belt stops. Uh-oh. None of our bags are here.
Looking for the first person we can find, I am sure we look like those deer-in-headlights tourists, and a porter quickly comes to our aid. “Our bags are not here” my mother-in-law exclaims to him.
“Come here” he says. He will take us to the baggage counter, I assume.
Is this the start of the Egypt hassle I have been warned about?
“Passports Please?” he asks, handing them to a security guard, before beckoning us to follow him through the double doors into another room. In the mean time, 4 other porters have joined our pack, eager to help with the lost luggage, I assume.
“Is it there?” He asks, pointing to another luggage carousel in this new room.
“YES!” we cry out! “Thats it!” The porter takes our empty luggage cart over and grabs our two bags of the belt. Relieved, he takes our carry on’s and piles them on top as well.
“Taxi?” he asks.
“Yes, please!” we reply earnesty. We exit Luxor airport, walking beside the porter, our Egypt adventure about to start.
Was it the deer-in-headlights look? Did we, two white women with two children, weary eyed from 27 hours of travel, the multiple suitcases, the backpack carry-ons, look like we needed help? I am expecting it right out side the door. The Scam. The taxi scam. The anything scam. Egypt is supposed to be a hassle right?
“Is this you maam?” A man in a suit holding a sign for Margaret asks.
“No,” I reply, looking left and right for where I should find a taxi, the brilliant late afternoon sun, the warm air, the porter still beside me with our luggage. “This is Egypt,” I say to myself.
I have yet to see any army-clad soldiers, or security forces. I have seen typical airport security inside the Luxor terminal. “But where is the protection? Is there nothing here that needs protection?”
In the same moment, the man with the sign reading Margaret asks “Where is your hotel?”
“the Achti Resort,” I reply. Without wifi, I cannot tell him much more, but I was given some advice from an Egyptian Friend of mine to tell anyone that it is the old Sheraton hotel, and they should know where to take me.
Well the confused look from the man alerted me to just that, “the old Sheraton on the Nile,” I replied. The photos from booking . com did show a pool on the Nile right? I thought to myself.
“Ahhhhh the Sheraton,” he replied. “I will take you.”
“But don’t you have someone else to pick up?” I asked.
“Maybe she is not here,” he replied. “Come.”
We crossed the parking lot to a waiting car, the driver getting out and opening the trunk. My suspicion arises and I ask him before setting foot into the car, “how much are you going to charge me?” I ask.
“Only 200 pounds,” he replies. “Egyptian pounds.”
“Fine,” I reply. I was told to expect it to cost 200 to 250 from the airport to our hotel. This is going to be ok. No one is trying to rip us off, I think to myself, yet.
I open the door and tell the boys to get inside, while the porter, who was now joined with 4 others trying to help him offload our two suitcases and three carry-ons, all looking for a little handout. They are desperate here I suppose.
We tipped the porter who guided us to our luggage LE 50, a generous tip I imagine, but we would have given him even more, just for the peace of mind that our luggage had arrived.
“You sit with me,” the man with the sign says to Mattias, and asks him to join him on his lap in the front seat. I look at my mother-in-law and shrug, This is Egypt.