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Actually it started last week. My niece is coming for a visit with her family and the new baby. I had not seen the baby yet and do desperately want to start bonding with her two year old daughter. They are the continuation of the family and I really need to have this bonding. So as she and her family are coming to spend some time by the sea, I was invited by my brother to join the family for the duration.
The trip is very simple. It is a 35 minute flight. Did I say simple? Well let me demonstrate. At first we were supposed to leave on Saturday, but there were travel complications. Then we were supposed to leave on Tuesday, but still some more complications. So my niece packed up the kids and with her husband took a flight and came over. Finally on Wednesday it was decided that we shall leave on Thursday. So D-day (departure day) was set for Thursday…or Friday.
Thursday morning I woke up not knowing if I would be traveling today or tomorrow. So everything was done as though I was traveling today, just in case I do. My first big surprise came when my house boy dropped a bombshell with his “Good morning”. He told me that there is something open somewhere in the fence and the dogs since yesterday have been managing to sneak out of the garden. Twice yesterday he had to chase them and bring them back in. My heart sank! It is extremely dangerous for unescorted dogs to be let loose in the compound. There are heavy trucks that are driven at insane speeds and many a dog was killed that way. Also the barbaric way of management to fight off stray dogs is to poison them. So all dogs are in great danger if left to roam unattended.
I simply cannot cancel my trip. I really want to go and I really want to bond with my great niece. So I took myself to the garden to see where the danger was. Unfortunately I took with me my morning orange juice. Of course, once I set foot in the garden the dogs wiggled through the fence and charged me in the back garden, knocking my glass of orange juice to drench my cardigan. These were the clothes I had set aside to travel in. All the rest were packed. Grinding my teeth wouldn’t help, so I went back into the house, took it off, popped it into the washing machine, set it at the fastest cycle and started wracking my brain for a solution to the doggie dilemma.
After taking my newly washed cardigan to hang on the roof where the wind would dry it in no time, I decided to call a neighbor of mine to ask her to keep an eye on the Terrible Trio while I was gone. She kindly offered to give me some mesh wire to try to close the fence, but that was not enough. When she dropped it by my gardener said that we have two new rolls which I had bought but had forgotten all about. Problem solved.
The gardener with the help of the house boy put up the wire all round the fence and now the Terrible Trio are safe.
Then started my own adventure. From where I live to the airport is a rather long way. I have to cross Cairo from the extreme south to the extreme north. Add to that on a Thursday evening and all the ingredients are in place. The one extra feature of that already stacked up scenario was the driver, not one of my brother’s regular drivers but someone totally new. He had never been to my compound before and it seems after my adventure, he had never driven to the airport either.
I started by asking him about the traffic coming in and he said it wasn’t too bad. Then I asked him what route he’ll take to the airport, and he said the same one he took coming in. I left it at that. The first part of the journey was quite straightforward, you cannot go wrong. After passing the toll gate and getting in towards town he opted to take the ring road which would save us from crossing town. Good move, or so I thought. After going on for some time he took an exit onto another road. I asked him what was that road and he said the autostrade. So far so good, as long as he knows where he is going. But the way seemed to be inordinately long, so I started asking him if he was sure we were on the right road and he assured me we were. I had been in the car for over an hour when I asked him that. Fifteen minutes later I saw a very high wall that went on for quite a long way, and at the end were sentries and a tank. I asked him is that the Ministry of Defense, and he replied no that is Tora prison. My heart sank. Tora prison is in the southernmost part of Cairo across the Nile. I mentioned that and it was then that he asked if I minded if he would ask someone if that was the correct route to the airport. We asked another driver and he said to take the next turn and go in the opposite direction. Oh.My. God. Another 45 minutes to get to where we were and start again. In the meantime my brother’s Assistant was having a mini breakdown over the telephone, trying to find out where we were and how long will it take us to get there. I called my brother and he said not to worry, we could take off whenever I got there. We were scheduled to leave at 6.30, but after my unplanned tour of all the suburbs of Cairo, I finally arrived there, after another few wrong turns, at 7.45. I had left the house at 4.30. So for over three hours I had a drive through the most congested routes of Greater Cairo, saw the famous prison where Mubarak’s two sons and most of his cabinet were held, then went through totally new areas that I had never seen, till I finally reached my destination.
I was greeted warmly by my family, and I finally met my great nephew. The flight, thank God went without incident and we finally got to our destination. So it just took me one week of waiting, an over three hour drive and a thirty five minute flight to get here. After seeing my family it was all worth it.
5 Feb 2015

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