Account of travels across the world. This blog provides descriptions of travels in different parts of the world. Pictures related to many of the blogs can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7330879@N05/ and for more information I can be e-mailed at ananda@wfu.edu

Friday, December 11, 2009

Egypt November 2009 

Egypt and bit of Germany, November 2009

November 4, 2009

We had Snowy packed off with Will on Monday night and Srijoy did some of his homework the night before and we left from home at about 8:00 am after a quick stop at Starbucks on Robinhood for coffee and rolls. We took 40 and 77 to Charlotte and as usual 77 was backed up right near exit 25. We discovered an alternative route taking exit 25 that actually took us through pastoral Charlotte and we got to the airport in comfortable time. It was beautiful sunny fall day and the check in was eventless and we settled down for our flight to Philadelphia. The flight was on time and we arrived in Philly just in time for lunch which we ate in a relaxed way at the food court of the airport. The Philly airport is basically a shopping mall with an airport attached to it. There are all the major name brands one can think of, and it feels different from the duty free shopping you get at Heathrow or Dubai because the shops operate more as stores and not so much as shops at an airport. We took an unhurried stroll through the mall and eventually boarded the Airbus for Frankfurt. US Air, like most other American carriers, is really awful in terms of service. The food was marginal, the booze cost $7, and the stewards were really rude or extremely rude. Oh, I so miss the old days of air travel when the planes were nicer, the service was actually "service" and not the hurried "get out of my way and finish your food" attitude that the American carriers have. I have realized that it is best to avoid American carriers when travelling overseas because any other carrier is better than the American ones. Anyway, we survived the crossing and reached Frankfurt a little ahead of time because of the tail winds in fall and winter. After a long time Srijoy and I did a night-crossing of the Atlantic (Mikku had done it recently for Stockholm) and it was actually not too bad, and I could see how this could be much better with a better airline.

November 5, 2009

We went through customs and security with little difficulty at Frankfurt. Collected the bags and took the elevator to the walkway and across to the Sheraton that is totally connected to Terminal 1 and checked into the Day Room at the Sheraton. This works well in cases where there is a significant layover between the two flights at Frankfurt. The hotel is nice, and the room can be booked online and they would let you into the room as early in the morning as needed. Provided a place to catch up on some sleep lying on a bed, a shower, and download all the e-mail. We rested there for a few hours and then went back to the terminal. Checking in with Egypt Air was relatively simple and the security at Frankfurt is much more civilized than what we have in the USA. Went through security relatively quickly and sat down at the Goethe Bar and had a breakfast at noon. The airport is not very nice and the terminal and gates we were in was rather sparse with respect to duty free shops. We hung around for a bit and then went off to the gate. The plane boarded mostly on time, and there was a bit of a wait on the tarmac. Egypt Air proved to be quite good. The food was nice and plentiful and the stewards were helpful and polite. There was a hint of racism towards non-whites on the flight, but it could have been a mistaken attribution on my part as well. There was no alcohol served on Egypt Air since Egypt is an officially Islamic country and the airlines is the national carrier of Egypt (we learnt later that Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution declares it as an Islamic country). The landing in Cairo was at night and we did not have window seats so did not get the glimpse from the sky. The airport had the typical odor one connects with developing countries and was immediately reminiscent of going to India or Peru. The airport was quite large and much bigger than Delhi airport which I was expecting it to be like. It was quite a long walk to the immigration area. This is where things get interesting. For people travelling under an American passport one need not have a visa stamped on the passport to board the aircraft from places like Frankfurt, London or New York, especially if you are on Egypt Air. However, on arrival in Cairo the individual must go to one of the three bank counters that come before immigration and purchase a visa for $15 per passenger. It takes only a few minutes to do this. Then, the person must complete a short form and stand in line, as in any other country, for the immigration officer who looks at the form and visa and stamps the passport and you are in. We got our bags after that and exited into the waiting area. It was quite large and we were expecting to see a driver from the hotel (JW Marriott) but there was a bit of a confusion about that, but eventually we got into the bus for the airport. The temperature outside was pleasant and the desert was palpable even at night. The roads were very good and reminiscent of the West and they drive on the same side of the road as in the USA. We arrived at the hotel and check in and service was very similar to what one experiences in India. The room was quite nice and had a balcony attached to it. I went down to arrange for transportation and other stuff while the others had a room service dinner. I finished the sandwich we had bought at Frankfurt. Because of Srijoy's allergies, we always carry some food with us in case the food on the plane appeared doubtful. Anyway, we were tired, and called it a day. I actually slept out on the balcony. We were on the sixth floor and it was quite pleasant.

November 6, 2009

We had a little difficulty getting up, but there was a reservation for the morning free shuttle from the hotel to go to Saqqara the site of the step pyramid. This is one of the older pyramids of the sequence of pyramids and was about 40 km from Cairo. We were also outside of Cairo and we were actually in a new development called Mirage City which is full of really expensive homes and shopping centers and hotels like the totally new JW Marriott. We had to select this hotel because it was one of the few that would allow three people in the same room. We made some coffee in the room and I got some croissants from the little bakery in the lobby. We then got to the van. It was a comfortable air conditioned van and there were a few other co-passengers. There was an older couple from Europe and a young man from Goa. The journey took us from the hotel along the Cairo ring road towards the city. It is not usually understood that the Cairo metropolis is one of the largest in the World and it is made up of three parts. To the east of the Nile is Cairo, to the west of the Nile is Giza and to the north of both these places is the area called Heliopolis which is both the site of the ancient city as well as the modern suburb where Mirage City is located. So we drove along the ring road which is comparable to any highway across the World. The first thing we noticed was the bare desert. Te sand appeared to be coarser and different in hue from the desert we have seen in the outskirts of Dubai. We soon approached the city and was struck by the jungle of incomplete multi-storied homes. They had bare brick outsides and it was explained that many families in Cairo do not complete the homes to keep open the option of adding to the houses. But it creates a bizarre look of a city that is incomplete. It was like driving past a brick jungle. The road was starting to get a little more crowded (8 lane highway) and we were soon at the Nile and we crossed the Nile. This was an exhilarating feeling. Perhaps never in our dreams had Mikku and I felt that we will ever get the opportunity to see this river. When growing up in India these were the esoteric places - the Nile, the Volga, the Danube - and thankfully at least I have seen all three and Mikku has seen two of these. The Nile is huge, the crossing point is similar to the crossing of the Mississippi near northern Illinois where the highway cuts into Iowa. The highway crosses over the river and then we entered the city of Giza. Suddenly we spied the pyramids. That was another moment of simple awe. You can see the pyramids from the highway as the city has grown into the pyramids. It just shows up in the distance and you realize that these are really much larger than what we have seen in the pictures. More importantly, they are plum in the middle of the city. You just drive up to them with a KFC right next to the Sphinx. But we were not going to the pyramids today. We skirted around the pyramids and got on the local road leading to Saqqara. Driving along this road was completely reminiscent of driving in India. Street side shops selling wares, some auto repair shops and things that are completely familiar to us but would be clearly interesting to the Western eye. It was clear that there are similarities in countries like Egypt and India, although Egypt remains a more affluent country. The drive to Saqqara took about an hour and we eventually drove up to the first real pyramid we would see - the step pyramid built as the first experimental pyramid which looks like steps rather the shape that has been popularized as the icon of Egypt. What was really interesting was the fact that we were actually standing in the location of a human-made object that is nearly 5,000 years old. There are not many places in the World where it is possible to be so close to an object that is that old. The place of course was infested with the annoying souvenir sellers one sees all over the World in places like this (except in the USA). These people are annoying but they add a flavor to the place which makes it more real as opposed to the antiseptic feeling one gets in places where these pesky people are missing. We strolled around the compound and was then led to a tomb where we saw 5,000 year old hieroglyphics inscribed on the walls of the tomb. This was a tomb where one could walk in through a door. The next place they took us to was a another pyramid and the tomb was inside the pyramid. Being largely claustrophobic I decided to give it a pass and Srijoy and Mikku did go in there and they spent a few minutes in there. After that visit we got back into the van and drove back to Giza right next to the main pyramids. The tour then ended up in a perfume shop. The Egyptians claim to have perfected the science of perfumery using natural ingredients. Not sure how accurate that is, but this was definitely a tourist trap where they take tourists and attempt to sell extremely high-priced perfumes and perfume accessories. It was, however, interesting to learn about the medicinal claims of the perfumes. We spent about an hour there. In the meantime, there was a little street disturbance outside the store (which was called Siwa) and it was interesting to see the crowds and the people much like Delhi, Lima or Bogota. What was also striking was the auto-rickshaws by Bajaj that have ended up in Cairo as well. Looking exactly like they do in Calcutta, these autos use the "share ride" concept and this really took us directly back to Calcutta. Some of the street corners looked the same as well. After the perfume factory trip the next stop was the papyrus place. This too was a tourist trap and we spent even less time there and took a taxi leaving the tour. The taxi system is also similar to many other cities like Lima or Calcutta. There is no meter, and the price is negotiated before you enter the taxi. Since English is barely used this becomes a bit of a challenge if one does not understand or speak Arabic. The tour-guide driver did the negotiation for us and we went through the infamous Cairo traffic, crossed the Nile and reached downtown Cairo. We got off right near the national museum and strolled around the huge plaza before finding a hole in the wall joint for a quick lunch. For about 30 Egyptian Pounds ($6) we three had a really good meal. We then walked down the main shopping stretch of the city and eventually negotiated with another taxi to take us to the El-Azhar Mosque. Before that we had chatted with a souvenir shop owner to figure out the acceptable cost. The drive was through the labyrinth of Cairo's Islamic Area until we reached the area of the mosque. Like in other Islamic areas (much like Kidderpore in Calcutta) the mosque is surrounded by one of the largest bazaars in the Arabian World. It was huge and we walked around there for some time before going into the mosque. A guide imposed himself on us and insisted on telling us the history of the mosque and explained the different aspects of the mosque. In our times we have seen many cathedrals and churches across the World but this was our first genuine look at a mosque. Mikku had to use the tiny scarf she thankfully had with her to cover her head and shoulders and was reminded about that a few times. This is one of the largest mosques of the Arab World and has a world-renowned madrasa (religious school) attached to it. We saw it all and then left the mosque after me receiving the traditional Islamic kiss from the guide (after he had cajoled us to pay him 60 Egyptian Pounds to show us the mosque). What was interesting was the fact that when we were leaving the mosque and went to retrieve our shoes, the shoe-keeper asked for a Pound each for the shoes, which was OK, but then asked me how much I paid the guide. The guide had prepped me for this question, and told me to say ten pounds only, which I did. So, even in the mosque there is a racket going on, where the guide will give the shoe-keeper half his taking (5 Pounds) and pocket the rest. Interesting. We then walked around the market some more and decided to take a taxi back. We decided to get a slightly higher level "metro cab" that would go on the meter. The hotel had given a direction card written in Arabic which the I showed the driver and was hoping he would know. He seemed to say he knew, but it became clear very soon that he had no idea. So much like in Dubai, some years ago, my trusted phone with Google maps came to the rescue as I was explaining to him in whatever English he knew to get us to the hotel. This resulted in an altercation where I refused to pay the fare shown on the meter because of the way he had screwed up and we had to go around in circles. I was able to prevail and thus did not have to pay the whole amount. We then decided to go down to the Lebanese restaurant for dinner. There was a woman singing live doing a pretty bad job, and I suggested to the DJ that there was a singer from India with us, and told Swati to go and sing, but she refused, although the restaurant was willing to give her a chance. We strolled around the hotel some before finally calling it a day. I again slept on the balcony but was accosted by mosquitoes earlier in the morning.

November 7, 2009

For this day we had arranged for a private car with a guide to go to the main pyramids. This was a little expensive but having the English speaking driver and the guide was a big help. We again took the ring road, and things were much more crowded today, yesterday was a Friday and a holiday but being a working day things were backed up. The pollution also hung heavy on the city displaying the very familiar brown sky of Lima, Calcutta, Delhi and other such places. It took us a little longer to get to the pyramids after a stop on the way to pick up our young guide and to buy some cheap Chinese batteries for my camera which lasted all of 5 minutes. The tickets were pre-purchased and it is possible to drive right up to the main entrance area of the vast pyramid complex which borders the city on one side and open desert on the other side. It was obviously an awesome experience only marred by the pesky guides and the flying polybags that is slowly making the area dirty. The complex includes three major pyramids as seen in the iconic pictures and it is possible to drive from one to the other eventually reaching a "panorama point" from where it is possible to see all the pyramids. The pollution was so heavy that it was really difficult to get a good view but one could sense the awe it must have inspired to people who would see the pyramids rising from the dust and appearing to touch the sky. The panorama point is also the starting point for a one-hour long camel ride that takes one through the desert and right to the sphinx. Although we were hesitant the guide convinced us to pay the money and take the trip. Mikku could not go for her bad back, but Srijoy and I mounted one camel which was led by a young Arabic person on the second camel and we started the trek. Horrifying experience. A camel ride in general is uncomfortable. Sharing a camel is absolutely not recommended. Srijoy was in the front and had something to hang on to, and I was on the back hanging on to Srijoy. He can lean back on me, I have clear air and a drop to the ground, sliding down the camels arse. Not a good thing when the land is undulating and the entire English lexicon of the fellow leading us is limited to "lean back," "hold on" and a quizzical "go faster?" Also to note, unless you are in the habit of stretching your inner thigh regularly (the last time mine were stretched when they pulled me out) across a large saddle, then after you get off the camel you will walk bow-legged and with immense pain for a significant amount of time. By the time we reached the Sphinx I would have been happy to be let off in the middle of nowhere as long I was off the back of the offending animal. The Sphinx was also as impressive as the pyramids. We went around the area and then the guide took us to a "stock" restaurant where we paid through our noses for a really bad meal. I was also somewhat nauseous in the morning from jet lag or indigestion, and although the camel ride stirred me enough to have digested everything in my gut, I was not too keen on the meal. After lunch we went off to a curio store, also a tourist trap, and was led into buying a pair of chartuses (these are oval necklaces that has ones name written in hieroglyphics). The salesperson was really very good and surely charmed Mikku and Srijoy into spending the money. We then took the van and went on to the Egyptian Museum. Although the building and upkeep was not as swanky with museums in the West, this was a place of immense treasure including all the gold discovered in King Tut's tomb. Much of the wealth from the other pyramids were plundered and much went off to Europe, but King Tut's stuff is all in this museum. We also the famous mummified animals featured in the National Geographic magazine. We spent about two hours there and then said our goodbye to our guide and returned to the hotel. I went and got some sandwiches from the Mobil gas station which had the "On the Run" shop. We finally called it a day. I also realized that using the rented cars from the hotel was getting unnecessarily expensive and had finally contacted a person off the Web who was going to send a car at a much less price the next day.

November 8, 2009

The car arrived as promised and we ate our normal breakfast and then headed out on the car towards the Giza pyramids. We decided to do this on our own today to get the freedom of the time to look around. The driver tried to pull a fast one on us by taking us first to the Sphinx and imagining that we would go with a guide. We told him that we were not going to do that and had him drive us to the other end where we bought our tickets and drove into the main pyramid complex. There we spent some time taking pictures and then went on to the Panorama point. Here Srijoy decided to venture out on foot into the desert and he definitely enjoyed the freedom. Being a desert we could see him walk for a long time. We spent some time there and then had lunch at the downtown Marriott. After lunch and the time at the conference we let the driver take us to a restaurant on the Nile and we sat there for some time before heading back to the hotel and waiting for the evening events with the conference. I had paid off the driver and he had left by then. The whole car hire system is exactly similar to the one that exists India and having done that many times the process of paying off and tipping was really simple. It was a good thing we have travelled so much because the process was quite familiar to us. We had a little time before the conference dinner to which the family was also invited. We strolled along the banks of the Nile. Cairo on one side and Giza on the other was coming alive with the night lights as the hotels and offices started to look like any other city in the World. It should be noted that I am writing this after spending a few days in Delhi, and although I speak of the similarities between Cairo and Delhi, it is the fact that Delhi is far more foggy in December and the way one could see the city lights of Cairo and Giza along the Nile, one would not see that in Delhi. Cairo also has a larger number of skyscrapers than Delhi which is more spread out and other than the housing estates of Dwarka there is not that many skyscrapers in Delhi. Anyway, I digress. After the Nile walk we got back to the meeting point for the dinner. We were taken on a luxury coach through the horrendous traffic of Cairo, here Cairo beats Delhi, as I will describe later. The distance was short and we eventually reached the walled city of ancient Islamic Cairo. The treatment of the delegates was nothing short of royal. We were placed on a electric cars so that we did not have to walk too far and escorted to a Mosque and Madrasa which was specially shut down for a private tour of the invited delegates and their families. This was an amazing experience to be treated with incredible amount of importance and shown all the details of the Islamic faith system and the education system. After that we were taken by the electric cars to the largest mansion in Cairo - a huge place with 115 rooms and sprawled out. It was the residence of a former Muslim ruler of Egypt and we were treated to private dinner with live entertainment. The specific entertainment program was called the Tanoura show. This is a show of male musicians and dancers who perform some really interesting and acrobatic dances. This is highly recommended for visitors to Cairo. We watched the show sharing the table with a lady and her husband from Moscow. The lady was well versed in English but the husband had no English at all. She works for the Public Opinion Research group in Moscow and what was interesting was that when Mikku and she went to the bathroom, we just sat quietly at the table since there was no way to communicate until the lady returned. These are priceless moments that really become learning moments for Srijoy who found the incident amusing but telling. The program and the dinner went late into the night and eventually the Director of the Center that had organized the conference offered the three of us a ride back to the hotel. A retired member of the Egyptian Army it was really interesting chatting with him about politics as we slowly made our way through the Cairo traffic that does not ever let up, even at midnight, when the added peril are teenagers on motorbikes who do their biker routines on the roads to add to the chaos. We finally called it a day at the hotel.

November 9, 2009

We had the same driver and the same car and we decided to get out of the city and go towards Saqqara again, but go beyond that to the bent pyramid that we had seen from Saqqara. This was a good hours drive into real Egypt and the similarities with towns in the central part of India was just amazingly striking. Reminded me of places in Bihar and MP where the small towns would have dusty roads, road-side stalls selling all kinds of wares, animals (mostly donkeys in Egypt) meandering around, stray dogs, and the amazing look of freshly slaughtered meat being sold by butchers shops exactly like the markets in the Beckbagan and Park Circus areas of Calcutta. There were the ubiquitous auto-rickshaws and the school kids in uniforms as we made our way out into desert to the area of the bent pyramid. There are two pyramids in this area. One is a standard shape (which was the final shape that they settled upon, first starting with the step pyramid, then going to the bent pyramid shape and then the final one that is familiar to all). The area was right next to an Egyptian military base (Egypt has compulsory military training for all youngsters, and can muster a huge army in case the uneasy peace with Israel was to be disturbed) and we could hear artillery testing going on there. Srijoy entered this pyramid too and then we moved towards the bent pyramid. The road was rough and the car was not very comfortable and so we decided to just pictures from a distance (in the desert there ain't no trees to stop your view!) and then headed back towards Giza from where we took the Fayoum Road to go towards Fayoum the location of one of the largest oasis in Egypt. The traffic was so bad that at one point we almost decided to turn back but my GPS suggested that things would clear out soon and it did. The journey to Fayoum is completely through the Sahara desert. As I mentioned earlier, this is a different kind of desert from the one in Kuwait (which I have seen) and the one in the United Arab Emirates (which too I have seen) and more like the Mojave in USA. The sand appears rougher and there was more undulations in this part of the Sahara. The pollution melted away very soon and we were under the bright sun and the mirages were absolutely admirable (we also discovered that it is very difficult to photograph a mirage) but we really understood how real the water looks in the midst of the sand. The road was quite good and was a four-lane highway and we did lay some toll. We eventually took the right turn off the Fayoum road and headed to the oasis called Lake Tarun. It was a serene blue lake and we sat at a restaurant by the lake and ate fried fish and Egyptian rice. Of course, the fish was caught almost right in front of us from the lake. After a little while there, we headed back to Cairo. The first forty five minutes of the drive was fine, but the last 20 miles took 3 hours. It was absolutely horrendous. The driver and I used GPS to track out alternative routes but nothing was flowing. It seemed as if the whole city was in gridlock for no apparent reason at all. This does not happen in Delhi. Yesterday, I was at Bhikaji Cama place (actually the Lotus Garden Chinese restaurant) for a meeting and my driver was warning me that we needed leave by 7 pm to be at the airport (international) by 8 because of traffic (those who know, think about Bhikaji and basically Mahipalpur, usually does not take more than 30 minutes) and he was right. I got delayed and did not leave until 7:30 and the traffic in Delhi was bad but it was flowing. A short nap in the car later we were at IGI by about 8:15 which was not bad at all, and was within what was predicted. But as the driver in Cairo said, nothing is predictable about traffic there and so by the time we got back to the hotel we were absolutely exhausted doing nothing but sitting in a car. We got food from the Mobil station and called it a day.

November 10, 2009

We checked out of the hotel after our croissant and coffee breakfast and took the shuttle to Cairo airport. There was another couple of Indian origin in the shuttle and we discovered that their son had studied at the Babcock School of Management of Wake Forest. Small world indeed it is. Check in with Egypt Air was smooth and so was security and immigration. The duty free area of Cairo airport is not large but quite comfortable. The flight was on time and we left for Frankfurt. About four hours later we were in Frankfurt which was quite cold and damp. We got our bags and went to the Sheraton connected to the airport. That is when I discovered that when selecting the cheapest room I had accidentally booked a room closer to downtown. The airport room was too expensive, so we left our bags with the concierge at the airport Sheraton and headed out on train to the other one. It was three stops on U7 or U8 and then a small walk to the hotel. We were relaxed and the walk was nice even though it was a little chilly. After resting at the hotel for a bit we took the tram to Old Stadt. Frankfurt is on the river Mein and downtown Frankfurt is basically a concrete jungle much like any other Western city. But it looked beautiful in the twilight and we eventually got off just past the Bahnhoff station and reached the old square. We have been here a few times before, but Srijoy really wanted to see the Cathedral. We spent a little time in the Church, and being cold and dark we decided to get some hot soup at a local bistro. Hung around the area for a while and then strolled over the central shopping area of Frankfurt. Much like Oxford Street of London the place has all the usual name stores and we went into C&A for Srijoy's underwear. Interestingly C&A the old English chain is no longer on Oxford Street but can be seen in Europe. We bought a snack, and it soon started to rain, so we hurried into the subway and after a few false starts we got back to where we needed to be and then to the hotel. Did an India take way from the store next to the hotel (of course as in much of Germany the Indian restaurants are run either by people from Pakistan or Bangladesh, but they brand them as Indian stores!) and called it a day. A curious thing happened at the main railway station in Frankfurt. Mikku and Srijoy had gone into a store and I was outside next to a café which had beer on its menu. When I asked for the beer the lady said that they sell it in cans and she cannot give it to me, but I need to take the can out of the fridge. I did that and paid for the beer and eventually drank it on our way back in the subway in a brown paper bag (oh so big city this behavior is). But can you guess why the store owner was unable to touch the beer can? Tell you when I see you.

November 11 2009

Our flight was at about 11:00 from Frankfurt. We checked out early and took the tram to the train and then the train to the airport. Got our bags and checked in. Later had a cup of coffee before security which was really smooth and civilized and we commented on it and the person reminded us that we were not in the USA and we all agreed that the American system is one of the worst in the World and is really more of "theater" than security. The Europeans do it far more unobtrusively and have far better profiling and surveillance and do not hype it up as we do in the US. It really got comical and really annoying yesterday in Delhi when Continental Airlines put the passengers through their special security checks before boarding the aircraft. I was able to carry though a lighter (oh that is so banned), matchboxes, undeclared small bottles of whisky. So when the fellow in Germany smirked about not being in the USA, having travelled as much as I have, I could not but agree. As I have travelled (if you look on Facebook, you will note that it stands at 35 countries now) I have seen the dismal state of the "image of USA" that has run through globally, and is just recently being repaired. This requiem of "you are not in America" runs through many places from restaurants where the portions are meant for normal human beings, to soda shops where a drink is not defined as ice with a little bit of the drink, to people who would look you straight in the eye and say "Your bombs killed my son" (I had that from an Iraqi school teacher who had fled Iraq and drove taxis in Dubai) or to curious and educated independent book store owners in Calcutta who once asked me if Clinton was bombing Libya to distract from his trouble with Monica. Anyway, I digress into politics. But after the security at the airport, we browsed the stores a little and then boarded the none hour flight to Charlotte. As always the service was dismal but we have gotten used to that with American carriers. Actually, Continental to Delhi from Newark was tolerable mainly because of an efficient attendant who was actually willing to help the passengers as opposed being hostile to passengers (and God forbid if you are an Indian on a flight going to India you can be assured of being treated like dirt by the Continental attendants, it is even worse on the way back as I am on the flight). This lady, who interestingly was on the flight to Delhi last week, is again on the flight back and recognized me (it is a little scary when flight attendants start to recognize you - that means you are travelling a lot) made both the legs much better than what it could have been. We did not have such as person on the US Air flight from Frankfurt to Charlotte so we cowered in the plane (as did all other passengers) hoping that we would not upset the attendants and get singled out for rebuke. Anyway, we eventually got to Charlotte and after getting the bags (which has become really efficient at Charlotte) we were out of the airport and back home.

The Egypt trip was over and it was really good.

Since the Egypt trip, I also spent a week in India. I flew the nonstop from Newark to Delhi, and the trip was mostly work but it was still enjoyable.

posted by Ananda  # 5:47 AM


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