Getting to Cairo’s Old & New Airports

I’ve decided to take no photos inside Cairo International Airport. The grounds are littered with guards, drivers wearing guard-like garb and random people who look at me with the same suspicious glances that I presume Egyptians receive in the States.

One of the first things I saw inside CAI was a “PRESS OFFICE,” which was labeled with a green sign just as large as the creme-colored “VISAS” one. An open door let me see inside this special little “press” room. Two women sat comfortably and with seemingly nothing to do on cracked, brown faux-leather chairs rather close to the ground due to abnormally short chair legs. Plastic cups, paper scraps and dirt in general decorated the 70s-style flooring and bottoms of wall curtains — there were no windows. I asked the women where I should head to get to my Egyptair flight, and they smiled and pointed next door toward the visa offices. I had completely missed it.

I’m grateful that the visa salesman I happened upon was good-mannered and smiley. I already appreciate Egyptians’ so-called leisurely pace, and the small but helpful amount of people in Cairo who speak English.

Cairo’s “Old Airport” is apparently reserved for international flights and accompanying business. It was my understanding that the train shuttle between the Old, where I arrived, and New, where I’ll depart for Luxor, would be simple enough for a non-Arabic speaker. Instead, I found myself miraculously driving up to my correct entrance about an hour ago in a small, red government car, the driver of which was asking me for a tip. The Ministry of Tourism somehow picked out the wandering blonde girl from CAI’s crowds and set her on her way with a government escort. “No, no, you don’t worry, it’s all free. It’s the Ministry of Tourism,” said the second of a total of five government employees and one luggage carrier to help me get to the “New Airport.” Some of them had badges, which matched, and the others had business cards. I decided to take the ride when I saw that the Egyptair employees I eventually found in the Old Airport knew the Ministry workers.

The 13.3% unemployment rate was pretty visible in the parking lots I walked through. Solicitors, tour guides and cab drivers all seemed to know each other, and all seemed to be in need of work.

During my few talks with the Ministry of Tourism, which was headquartered in a hole in a wall smaller and dirtier than the press office, the men (as all the employees are) indicated that, at 1 p.m., I may not have left enough time to make my 5 p.m. flight. Alas, the flight is actually at 5:40 p.m. and I was turned away when I tried to check my bags a few minutes ago. “It’s too early.”

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