It only seems a few days ago that I was in the Northern Hemisphere, Norway, Finland and briefly Sweden, enjoying (massive understatement) the delights of Tromsø, Kilpisjärvi and Sørvågen on Lofoten with its stunning snowbound waterfall, and the fantastic Holmen Lofoten where I had spent an unbelievable few days with some like minded adventurers, having the time of our lives at ‘Kitchen On The Edge Of the World’.
The familiarity of Heathrow Terminal 2 was unmistakable, security had not changed since the previous week, the new high tech scanner lane that does not require liquid visibility, iPad withdrawal and the usual invasive activity was not open, but the officers on charge were polite and efficient, I don’t begrudge the activity to provide an extra layer of security, however mundane and troublesome it may seem.
Unlike my trip the week before, our family flight to Cairo, capital of Egypt was scheduled later in the day, so many of the sustenance outlets, unlike the previous week were open, yipeeeeee! There are the usual high street options, but I really fancied trying Monsier Blutmenthals’ ‘The Perfectionists Café’, so, after the standard perusal of duty free, not really intent on buying anything we headed over to the restaurant, and with no queue were guided to a table immediately.
‘Hestons Gaff’! sits on the same floor as security towards, the front right of the terminal affording a ‘window shopping’ view of goings on, if you are seated in the right place, it’s great for people watching if that’s your thing. The terminal wasn’t manic but, I guess lively would be an apt description, it was 11:45 and I wanted to wait for the 12:00 bell when breakfast became lunch, and the menus changed to include different options. You can just see the location in the top right of the picture above.
Junior opp wasn’t hungry, the boss went for a Cheese Burger, apparently very nice indeed, I was the awkward bugger, so looking closely at the menu I found an interesting selection of ‘Snacks’ nestled away in the bottom right hand corner of the menu, almost hidden, please don’t choose us type of vibe.
That’s for me my brain whispered, I was too excited for a ‘big’ meal but something was telling me to think Tapas, were they, could they, are they.
So, with the waitress expectantly waiting off I went, Flats Breads, Nduja, yes please, Sweet and Sour Chicken Bites, yep, oh, and Blanchbait and Garlic Mayo, erm yes, ohh, mmmmm, Ragu Croquettes sound the business, yep, I think that’s it!
I can only say it hit the spot and I managed most of it, the truth being since I had returned from Norway I had hardly eaten anything at all so I was actually quite hungry, with a 4 hour 50 minute flight, and Ramadan under way so I was not sure what, or when we might get some refreshments, a decent fill was probably a good idea.
Getting onto the plane was ‘interesting’, my wife having some knee issues we usually manage to get some assistance, it’s never asked for as there are other people more ‘needy’ (no pun intended) but when offered, we will usually accept, if nothing else to help ‘human traffic flow’.
For some reason as we got to the plane with the other ‘challenged’ folk, the heavens opened and apparently water was getting into the plane so they decided to close the door! We then had to reverse, essentially being at the back of a queue of several hundred people as we filed to the other side of the plane, had to show our already shown boarding cards and eventually settled down for take off, amusing and frustrating simultaneously.
There is something I find interesting about food on flights, delivered in trays with more accessories than Batman carries in his utility belt this one was actually quite nice, but served hurriedly just over 1 hour 30 minutes before landing, Ramadan seemed to have jinxed the liquid refreshments and no coffee/tea was served, water was available if you pushed the ‘service’ button enough times, my record was 5!
Did I tell you my wife and I LOVE Egypt, I don’t believe so, this was our fourth trip, but the first taking our son, he had asked to go and I was more than happy to book something not having been since about 2003. We have done the usual Cairo/Nile cruise twice, but also the the very quiet Lake Nasser, all the monuments have been chopped into blocks, moved and put back together like a massive puzzle, they are all UNESCO sights, fascinating and if you get the Egypt bug like we have, well worth visiting.
Getting INTO Egypt was a doddle, don’t believe all the tales you hear about customs and visas etc., if you follow the guidance on the forthcoming website to the letter, it’s not difficult. If you browse to Egypt Visa (as of April 2023), fill in the form making sure you copy EXACTLY the details from your passport and pay the fee.
If you make a mistake, you still get charged and have to do it again. I managed 2 out of 3 so had to do my wife’s a second time as I missed a letter! On arrival, if you have done it correctly and got your confirmation email and PDF certificate they have you in their systems, just queue up and show your passport, as of writing its mentions diplomatic and something above the correct queue line, EGYPTIANS ONLY is to the left, and CREW to the right, it took us about 7 minutes to get to the baggage collection hall, result.
We met the local team ‘on the ground’ as they sometimes say, holding big signs and looking expectantly for lost tourists that are in their party, to be transported off to hotels all over Cairo but have actually forgotten who they had booked with, and end up in the wrong bus and at the wrong destination!
Baggage took a while but we soon connected with our driver and 24/7 contact, if we needed anything he was a WhatsApp call away. Off we drove and 45 minutes later, after the maddest ‘whacky races’ you have ever seen, we where at our hotel in Giza, a stones thrown from the majestic Pyramids and the new Museum just over the road, the driving is hilarious if you have not experienced it before, 8-10 lanes and no traffic rules at all.
Our son was in hysterics and so was I, so comforting to be back in Egypt, in Cairo, one of my happy places..And we could see the Pyramids from our Balcony.
I couldn’t sleep, to be honest I was still buzzing from Norway and now had the added emotions of Cairo and Giza to deal with so I ordered some wine on room service and watched the Battle of Narvik which I had downloaded on Netflix to my iPad. I had headphones on so the family could try and sleep. It was a fascinating historical film covering some courageous action during WWII in the Nordics with a whole bunch of countries involved. I finally got to sleep about 03:15!
It was sunny and already 12 degrees when we rose from our slumber, it was going to be nice and warm today. Breakfast was calling and I had booked a private tour to the Giza Plateau, to take the pressure of having to join an big coach with unknown travellers from who knows where, I wanted us to control the pace and make it special for everyone.
Being an (very) eccentric foodie, I don’t travel 2197 miles to another country, with different customs and culture to eat a british fry up, it drives me nuts, I want to try local food, experience what the locals eat, so breakfast was Ful Medames for me, rich, hearty, tasty and nutritious. It’s a bean based dish with ‘toppings’ if you like, Olive Oil, Chopped Onions, Cumin Powder, Chilli Powder and Lemon Juice it was very tasty and served with fresh local bread made the same day, yummy. For dessert! I had some Sesame Seed Halva, and Honey and of course lots of tea!
Ali, our guide and Farouk, our driver had already sent messages early to confirm pickup time and location, it was going to be a great day. We were soon on the Giza Plateau, getting some education about the history and dynamics of an ancient world, steeped in mystery, who, how, exactly when it was fascinating (as always).
I had picked up a book written by Toby Wilkinson, an eminent Egyptologist before we left the UK called ‘The Nile – Travelling Downriver Through Egypts Present and Past’, I have quite a few books on the history of Egypt but this one seemed different, approaches things from a different point of view, and within the first 6 pages I have already learnt so much, it’s a captivating book.
Ali was brilliant, asking our son (and the rest of us), questions about all things Giza Pyramids and it drew our son into the mystery even more, he loved it, fantastic I thought.
This afternoon is relax time, well for the rest of the family, I have been writing this post and thinking back across the last 24 hours and the adventure that stands before us. Tomorrow we are with Ali and Farouk again, off to Saqqara and Memphis, to see some older structures. More about that another day.
…………………Until Next Time…………….L8ers……………