World through my eyes

Saturday 25th September

Got up at 6:00am after an intermittent sleep and caught the 6:40am bus from the hotel to Heathrow airport terminal one.  I went to the Swiss International air counter checked my bag since the woman said it was too heavy to carry on. I guess there are different rules for United, who let me carry on from SFO-LHR, and Swiss who would not let me carry on LHR to GVA. The plane was about 20 mins late in taking off and arrived at Geneva (GVA) about 20 mins late at about noon. In Geneva I was in the transfer lounge until about 14:30pm when we boarded the EgyptAir Boeing 737-800 for Cairo. It was completely full, the seating was pretty cramped, and until the senses gave in, there was a noticeable body odor smell. It looked clean and seemed to be efficiently run. I watched the film Ghost Writer which was good again second time around. The pilot made a very smooth landing at Cairo airport at about 8:10pm. I bought my visa for $15 at the bank and then proceeded through customs. Actually the first time I tried to go through customs they sent me back to the bank to get the visa. I then picked up my bag. On the way out I looked at all the signs people were holding up for their pickups. I could not see one for me. I made up my own sign and walked around showing my signs to the sign holders. Still no luck. I called our host on my mobile, there was an answer but there was a lot of background noise on both ends and I could not make out anything. I hung up getting a bit anxious, and was about to place another call, when I found my contact. His name was Ibrahim,  Fathy, Abd Sal Ghafar. We then had to wait for another lecturer (Mikhail Zhizhy) who was flying from Moscow arriving nominally 1.5 hours later. It transpired his plane (EgyptAir) was delayed and then getting through customs etc took about 1.25hours. Eventually he arrived and quickly found us. At about 11:00pm we got into a very old Fiat 121, no seat belts in the back, a non working one in the passenger seat where I sat, air conditioning was very green (i.e. there was none just open the windows all the way) and set out for Helwan University on the SE side of Cairo. The ride from the airport to Helwan University is not for the faint of heart and was the closest thing to a video game that I can recall. Lane discipline is interesting. Some people drive between the lines, others place the middle line in the middle of the car, but most seem to oscillate between these positions, if there is a visible white line. I would say about 30% of the time, there was no visible white line, so then it gets really interesting.  At the same time it’s not like India where it’s so congested speed is not possible. In Cairo, as we came through, we must have been weaving between traffic at over 70mph most of the time. Of course there was no visible working instrument in the car to verify this. Just to add excitement every now again, probably at roughly 2 mile intervals, there are vicious speed bumps where everyone slows down to about 10-20mph (again no instrument enabled me to verify this). We reached Helwan University at about 11:50pm, and made our way to the Guest House. Even at this time of night the temperature was about 86 degrees and quite humid.  My room was on the top floor which since heat rises was very hot, however my room was lovely and cool with a serious air conditioner. I got to bed at about 12:30am.

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