Today is mostly a travel day, we had breakfast on the ship in Abu Simbel, on the Sudan border, lunch in Cairo, and we will have dinner at our hotel in Alexandria, on the Mediterranean Sea. I am writing this on the bus to Alexandria and we will return to Cairo tomorrow evening by train. The airport experience in Abu Simbel wasn’t bad, but we were told the security is the tightest in Egypt because we were on the Sudanese border. We had to go through two screenings but we didn’t have to take our shoes off or take the computer out of the bag, but the flight itself was a real cultural experience. The airline was Memphis Air, a subsidiary of Egypt Air, and I think they got the airplane at a discount from Somali Air. The airplane was a forty year old DC- 9 that was last cleaned when it came off the production line and I not sure that the bathrooms were even cleaned then. The two male stewards came down the aisle and gave everybody a juice box and Fig Bar and then never returned to pick up the empty boxes or wrappers, so everyone just stuffed them into the pockets in the seat backs or let them drop to the floor. The door to the cockpit was wide open during most of the flight, something you will never see in the United States, but then I keep forgetting that the radical Muslims are the ones trying to fly aircraft into our buildings, we are not trying to fly aircraft into their buildings. The radical Egyptians are really in the minority; every Egyptian we have met could not be nicer or more helpful and showed absolutely no animosity toward Americans. When we landed half of the tray tables were still down and the stewards who we never saw after they passed out the juice boxes didn’t seem to care. When we got to the Abu Simbel Airport airport we were given boarding passes for open seating on the airplane and ours had the name Martinilli on it so we can only assume someone else had boarding passes with our name on it. When we got to Cairo we were taken to the Le Meridian Hotel for a fabulous buffet lunch in a very upscale environment. This is a culture of real contrasts, and there is no middle class. When we get to Alexandria we are going to tour the Library of Alexandria and then go to the Hotel. Tomorrow will be a full day of touring prior to returning to Cairo.
When we took off we flew down Lake Nasser. Living in a Disney World type atmosphere that we do in America, I kept thinking while we were on the lake, “Are there cities on the other side of the mountains, munchkins, anything?” Well, no it was definitely BFE – nothing but desert as far as the eye could see. I guess that is why they call the Sahara, Great. Then we passed the dam and we were flying over the original Nile, before they blocked the water and made Lake Nasser. It was interesting from the air. River running down the middle, green on both sides and then like someone took a pencil and started the desert once again. I can only imagine what the Nile Valley looked like in the days of Ramses II. When he knew the floods were coming he would sail down the Nile and greet his people.