Getting from Tel Aviv to Cairo has its political complications. As the agent at the airport said…. Israeli’s are not safe in Egypt. However, we went through seven different levels of security just to get out of Israel.
We flew Jordanian Airlines to Amman (the opposite direction from Cairo) and then connected to a flight that went back again to Cairo. Apparently Israel and Egypt do not allow direct fights to and from either country. What should have been a simple one hour flight ended up being an expensive five hour series of frequent security inspections and two flights.
At the Tel Aviv airport, they said that my carry-on bag was to heavy to fly it with me to Amman so I had to check it through to Egypt. Then they pulled me and the bag aside after running the bag through a machine and a polite, youthful female security officer asked me if I had Dead Sea Mud in my bag (that’s why it was so heavy) and an iPad and if I did, where did those things come from. It’s miraculous what they can see in your bags.
The upgrade to business class from Jordan was fairly inexpensive and we were tired so I asked the gate agent to upgrade us. He said okay and took me back the long concourse back through security and gave my passport to the inspector; presumably to ensure that I wouldn’t bolt and illegally enter the country (right!). We then walked a long way to the check-in counter, with twelve minutes to departure (and Peter back at the gate wondering where I was) where an agent did the old fashioned calling in to approve my credit card and then hand-writing the credit card bill. With my passport in a strangers hand somewhere else, the gate a mile away (it seemed), and the flight departure imminent, I was wishing that I was flying in the back of the plane and safely on board. In the end, they delayed the flight for other reasons and we sat on the Tarmac (comfortably in first class seats) for 30 minutes and had a nice dinner with English newspapers on the 1 1/2 hour flight.
We breezed through Egyptian Security and immigration and were glad that we had acquired toursit visas prior to the trip. The airport was very modern and our guide, Yasser, met us upon arrival and took us on an “exciting and at times, thrilling taxi ride on the six-lane freeway ring road around Cairo where a traffic lane; although striped, is only utilized occasionally. At times I looked up and there would be four cars in three lanes. Our guide said that Cairo has 25 million people by day and another 10 million coming in every day to work there. The Bell Hop at the Hotel said that 10 million people live in Cairo and 80 million in Egypt.
I asked Yasser about a data SIM card for my 3GS cell phone (worked great in Israel) and found myself with him and a street vendor bargaining for same. It cost 65 Egyptian Pounds ($10.00 US) and although it initially had no data it eventually started working.
Our Hotel, the Mena House Hotel, was very plush and a real treat. It is lacking wi-fi which would be my only complaint. The people here are very friendly. The weather is perfect, and we woke up to see a pyramid rising above the palm trees.