The day started out well, sharing a taxi to the Rome airport with the tour group leader of the Rick Steves tour I’d just been on. She was interested to know of my experiences traveling in Egypt, and I loved talking about them to her.
Everything went well until the EgyptAir flight was canceled. They put us on a later flight to Sharm el Sheik, the resort on the red sea, saying that we’d just stay on that plane, and after Sharm el Sheikh, it would go to Cairo.
I asked a Egyptian businessman who often traveled to Italy, if he could call my guide to tell him what had happened. He couldn’t get through to Ahmed. But the businessman assured me that if Ahmed called the airport, they would tell him that the passengers from our plane had been transferred to the plane which went first to Sharm El Sheik and then to Cairo.
(I found out later that Ahmed could tell from his phone that he had missed a call, and that his phone told him the businessman’s number. He called the businessman, who told him that my flight had been canceled.)
Then mid-flight, the captain announced that he had decided to go to Cairo first after all! Through the flight was officially a Sharm Al Sheikh flight!
All the Egyptians on board cheered!
The stewardess then asked the sexy Italian wife of an Egyptian to go to the microphone and say, in Italian, what had happened. Of course the Italians, who were all going to Sharm, all groaned!
So the plane turned around, midway across the Mediterranean, and headed for Cairo…
Once at the Cairo terminal, I tried again to let someone to call for me. This time a young lady, very nice and helpful, but she again couldn’t get through. So I just waited and waited. The cavernous main hall of the Cairo airport got emptier and emptier as people were picked up, and more and more dreary. I figured that Ahmed might arrive at the time that the Sharm El Sheik plane was originally scheduled to get to Cairo. But no one arrived. I was the only western woman in that part of the terminal, and the only unaccompanied woman.
Finally, at 1 AM (because the flight would have indeed gotten there by then if it had gone to Sharm el Sheik first) I finally decided that I would get a little more pro-active about things. I asked about whether there was an internet cafe. I was told that there indeed was one, but it took awhile to find it, going from terminal to terminal and asking for directions. I was very pleased to find that there was one, because I hadn’t been able to find one at all in the Rome airport, I kid you not.
After waiting, and then wandering around the late night airport, it was so great to find the internet cafe, brightly lit and lively with chatting young Egyptians of the educated type. They charged me twenty Egyptian pounds to get on line, which was equivalent to what I had paid in Italy (though I later found out that the going Egyptian rate was one pound!)
And what a huge relief, there was an e-mail from Leyla saying that Ahmed had seen that someone had tried to call him but had been in an elevator where there was no reception. When Ahmed called back the businessman’s number, he told them that my plane had been cancelled, so he and Leyla assumed I would be staying in Rome overnight. So I tried asking the young men to call Ahmed, and they did get through! I headed out in front of the terminal to meet him.
It turned out that when one calls from a cell phone in Cairo one must put an extra “o” had to go before the number. The Egyptian businessman in Rome did know this, so he had gotten through (except for the elevator) but the young lady who so kindly helped me when I arrived at the airport did not know this, and just dialed the number I’d given her, so she did not get through. The young men in the the internet cafe did know it, so they got through.
Ahmed was quite upset that I’d waited so long at the airport. I was just happy to finally be on my way to where I was going to stay for the next week.
It was great to see Leyla, she was so concerned about all of my problems getting there. She arranged with Ahmed to have some fish delivered to us, and it was half an hour until the delicious grilled fish arrived, with a container of tahine and a container of fresh bright red tomatoes and green herbs, chopped. I took the chance of eating them because Leyla said that Ahmed knows which places really wash the fruit and vegetables. We chatted a little more but I could hardly stay awake, my head was no sooner on my airplane neck pillow (because the Egyptian pillow was so thin and hard) and I was asleep.