Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Team Arrives in Egypt

The instructions our bio-archaeologist, R. Paul Evans, sent to some of the team as to how to negotiate the airport are a good description of how arriving in Egypt works. Here it is:

Your flight to Cairo from Paris will be met at the airport by myself and one of our drivers, either Mr. Hosni or more likely Mr. Hanafy. The flight arrival times for the Paris to Cairo flight have been averaging about 20-30 minutes earlier than advertised for the past week so we will be sure to be there by 6:15 pm. Before landing, the flight crew will distribute 4x5 inch Egypt entry information forms. You should only need to fill in one side and you will be asked some general and specific questions, including your passport number.

You will exit the plane onto the tarmac. At the bottom of the movable stairs, you will no doubt see persons holding signs with names. If you search for us there, you will not find us. Go directly to the standing room only bus which will shuttle you to the airport terminal. As you enter the terminal doors you will no doubt have to press your way forward through persons holding signs with names. If you search for us there, you will not find us.

Go with the crowd up escalators to your left and then eventually you will come to the passport lines after several moving walkways. Do not enter the passport lines yet. To your left will be two Misr Bank locations, a booth at one and some counters at the second. Purchase your visa at either of the two Misr Bank locations. Simply ask for an entry visa and hand the person $15 US Dollars. It is good to have the exact amount ready. You will get a 1.5 x 2.5 inch paper with a round silver holographic eagle in the center and the words “Entry Visa” to the left, and “Egypt” underneath. With passport, entry information form (completed on the plane), and visa, stand in one of the Passport lines. If you are in a line with only persons of Arab descent and you can see other lines with many non Arab descent persons on the other side of a rope barrier, you are most likely in the wrong line. The passport lines are usually closest to the Misr Bank locations. Eventually as the line moves forward, you will come the yellow line where you are the next to be admitted. When the person before you stops talking with the passport control agent in the glass booth, go forward and present your papers through the rectangle slot. The agent will examine the passport and look at you and maybe say something. Usually they just peel the paper off the back of the visa and affix the visa to a page in your passport. When they pass your passport through to a person you cannot see, then you are to move a step or two closer to leaving the booth but you need to wait for your passport. The other agent is checking your name and information on a database. The passport is then stamped and handed out through the window to you. Now, off to luggage retrieval.

Upon exiting passport control, chaos may seem to erupt upon you. Ignore anyone who offers a service. Look above the luggage return tracks for the TV monitor with Paris and the flight number DL89. Retrieve your luggage. I really have no idea what to do specifically, if your luggage does not come. Look for an Air France or Delta agent. The luggage can be delivered to the Cairo Hotel Marriott in Zamalek to your name. The Marriott will know how to find you. Leaving behind such an unfortunate outcome as to your luggage, you are now ready to clear customs. Enter the nothing to declare lines and have your passport ready if needed. Some agents ask for it and others do not. Sometimes they will look in the bag but 99.9% of the time they do not. Just move forward, saint.

If you thought that chaos had been your companion in the baggage claim area, as you leave the customs area and pass through the open glass door into the terminal, chaos may now likely co-occupy your body. The press of humanity may be quite overwhelming at this point. The people waiting to greet their loved ones have to stand behind rails and there are aisles that are railed off into which you can make your way through. Walk confidently and without hesitation to the left most aisle. If you look for me there, there will I be.

If for some unforeseen reason I am not there, then continue through the aisle ignoring the several people who will offer you taxi or car service or limousine. Simply say no thank you and walk confidently to the center palm tree in the terminal - do not leave the terminal building, yet. You can sit on the retaining wall. There are restroom facilities to the same side of the terminal that a gift shop is located - there is only one gift shop. Wait there for30 minutes. If I have not shown up by then then something has happened and you will need to arrange for your own taxi. Not to worry! There is always a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, etc., in Egypt.
After waiting for 30 minutes, leave the terminal and make your way down the ramp to your left. You will be besieged with offers for taxi. Here chaos may seek to displace your very soul. At the bottom of the ramp look for an empty taxi car that looks good to you and approach the taxi. Your best bet is to use a taxi that is there at the ramp and waiting. Refuse to leave the bottom of the ramp to go somewhere else for the taxi. Taxis that enter the airport are monitored and screened. Tell the taxi driver, “Marriott Zamalek” (use short, not long vowel sounds). No need to discuss the cost at this point. For three of you, the cost should not be anything more than $25 USD, including tip. This is about 10% higher than the usual fare and tip for a foreigner so will not be a problem. The exchange rate is 6.9 Egyptian Pound /1 USD. Just get in and go. Depending on traffic, it will take at least an hour to get to the hotel. Thursday night is the equivalent of Friday afternoon traffic before a three day weekend in the summer. If could be very heavy. Enjoy the sounds, the sights, the smells of Cairo! The traffic patterns will bewilder and destroy any sense of calm that ever once may have been your companion. As the minutes pass on, count the number of accidents that you see and you will soon realize that there are no accidents, usually! Let this observation bring some peace to your mind realizing that there must be some system that allows for life to persist in the streets.

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