November 28, 2014
Finally… the long awaited day is here. My first trip out of Saudi Arabia since arriving here about 4 months ago.
For at least the last 5 years of my life, I don’t think I’ve gone 4 months without flying somewhere or going somewhere on some sort of trip or adventure. But then I moved to Saudi Arabia and suddenly, I’ve been living in the same city for 4 months without going further than maybe 75km from my home!!
I struggled to decide where I should go on my first bit of vacation… so many options!! (First world problems. I know) Would it be a trip home… or a weekend in Dubai… or somewhere warm and sunny and beachy like the Philippines… but at the end of the day, I only got 1 week off work and decided to go to Egypt with my good friend Amelia for my first weekend off plus a few days… and then… maybe Dubai or Bahrain for the next weekend… hadn’t quite decided yet.
Amelia and I stayed in Riyadh Thursday night instead of taking off right away after work because we were attending the Caledonian Ball… which was heaps of fun.
So Friday noon… we headed to the airport. Airport security in Riyadh… so lax compared to US airport security! And being a woman… definitely a bit of an advantage because you get to skip the long lines to go through the scanner as women go through a seperate area… and there’s a lot less females travelling out of this place than men!
Seriously, I’m so thrilled to have my passport in hand again… and to be able to travel…. eeeeek!!!
Waiting in the airport… listening to the muezzin call out adhan… the call to prayer… resounding through the airport… it was beautiful!
Eventually we boarded our flight to Egypt… via Saudia Airlines… our first time flying with them. Mafi alcohol on this flight. But that’s ok. We’ll survive!
Really unique thing about flying with Saudi Airlines… before the plane starts moving towards takeoff or anything… a prayer/several verses from the Quran are recited over the cabin speakers. From what I could find on google, it is called a dua’a which is an act of supplication. To summarize, the dua’a recited praises Allah and gives thanks that we have this means of transport and if it is Allah’s will, we will safely arrive at our destination and we will return.
“O Allah! Protect me and protect what is with me (my possessions), and deliver me (to my destination and delivery what is with me the best of your delivery. By Allah I commence (my journey) and by Allah I seek to accomplish (the purpose of my journey) and by Muhammad (s.a.w.) I have set out (towards my destination). ‘O’ Allah make me overcome all (my grief); and make easy for me all difficulties; and give me more of goodness than I hope for; and keep away all evil of which I am apprehensive for my health.” “O the most Merciful”.
Even though my personal beliefs are a bit different, it is very unique to experience this part of the culture!
So… we flew… only about 3.5-4 hours to Cairo. Never thought I’d be living on a few hours away from Egypt! Arrived in Cairo in the evening. Didn’t realize we’d need to purchase a visa at the airport in order to get into the country. Cha-ching… there goes 200 riyals. Oh well. Got through customs and all that just fine. But wow, the terminal was stale smelling! Ugh.
And… we stopped at the duty free… in the first liquor store I’ve been in in 4 months!!! Had to grab a bottle of wine. Not because we so desperately needed it, but having been denied the opportunity to purchase alcohol for the last 4 months… it’s really just something we had to do 🙂
We’d heard many sketchy things about taxis in Cairo. Like, never ever get in a white taxi. So, we found a fairly legitimate taxi service near the exit of the airport arrivals terminal, and the driver brought us to our hotel… the Fairmont Nile City... about 20-30minutes from the airport.
Coming from Riyadh, we’re used to fairly high security to get into everything… but even here in Cairo, there were bomb dogs at the hotel gate sniffing the car and guards checking the trunks and everything. Even the entrance of the hotel had a xray scanner for bags and we had to go through a scanner as well!
The hotel was gorgeous though! Marble. A waterfall that rang along the elevator tower. Beautiful flowers and sculptures.
And the service was wonderful. The gentleman behind the desk was young and friendly and upgraded us to a Fairmon Gold level room with a view of the Nile… we’d get free breakfast with our upgrade… access to the lounge where there would always be coffees and juices and snacks available… plus free Egyptian wine and beer samples at happy hour every afternoon.
Our room was beautiful… and we had a gorgeous Nile River view… at night right now so we couldn’t really see the river itself. But still. I can’t believe I’m in Egypt in this wonderfully historical land… literally across the road from the Nile River. That most famous river of all I think!
We were pretty exhausted by this time… so we headed to one of the restaurants in our hotel for some dinner… sushi and dumplings!! How non-Egyptian! 😮 And of course… a celebratory glass of red wine!!
This trip has been off to a great start and I’m so excited to see what the next few days bring… and to cross an item off the bucket list… the Pyramids of Giza!