In the land of CLEOPATRA !!!

Things had happened too fast……from the time that it suddenly got confirmed that I’d be flying to Cairo, Egypt for a couple of weeks on an assignment with MobiNil – the Egyptian Telecom Company ; I had just a little under 2 days to get everything set and ready. Some last-minute shopping and last-second packing later, I was almost set. After managing just about an hour’s sleep that night, early next morning, I boarded the ‘Jet Airways’ flight to Mumbai and from there, the ‘Egypt Air’ to Cairo.

The prelude to the journey however was a major disappointment ! ! !  ……..blame it on my bloated high-hopes of expecting every Egyptian air-hostess to look like CLEOPATRA ! 🙂 Instead, what awaited me at the ‘Egypt Air’ check-in counter at Mumbai airport looked more like aunties who had taken a retirement from the ‘Indian Airlines’!

However, the flight wasn’t too bad. The 5 and a half hour journey was fairly uneventful, and I was able to steal a couple of hours of pending sleep in between. When I woke up, and looked out of the window, the sight was breath-taking…….Far below, was an amazing spread of endless plain yellow desert, replete with huge sand-dunes , stretching all the way up to the far horizon !  The live-map on the TV screens showed me that we were somewhere over the Arabian peninsula.

Shortly later, we were flying over the Red Sea……I could clearly spot 3 to 4 ships making their way north towards the Suez Canal. Soon, we were over the lands of Egypt – yet more stretches of endless desert and not a speck of vegetation anywhere in sight!

And then, I saw it !!!

Sort of like haphazardly left on the face of the empty desert was something that looked like a thin, blue ribbon … didn’t take me too long to recognise it as this majestic river, that we had all studied so much about in Social Studies back in school – the river NILE !

As we approached closer, a thin belt of greenery appeared to be visible on either side of the Nile…… it was simply amazing – just how, in spite of having such a big river flow right in between, the land around was still a desert, except for these  negligible odd pockets of greenery !

Shortly before landing in Cairo, was when I first spotted the Pyramids of Giza !  My initial reaction was  – “That’s it  ???” ……from the altitude that I was in, they appeared merely like sand structures built by some kid on the beach  …..

We landed at Cairo at 5:30 PM local time and I quickly moved towards the immigration counters ………. Just when I thought that everything was fine, was when I got the SHOCK of my life !

Standing there waiting, was this huge man holding a placard that read “KILL KOMMADATH” !!!

I just stood there frozen in my path , thinking what to do ….my initial reaction was to turn and run back into the plane ! But it was too late. The guy had spotted me, and was now walking towards me ….Silently, I said my last prayers …….

The big guy came up to me and asked “Your name KILL ???”

“No”, I replied nervously, “…. Its more like AKHIL !”

He grinned, exposing his irregular and badly maintained teeth and introduced himself as Hameed, sent by my Hotel to pick me up. [ I sighed in relief ] …..he explained that he was not responsible for the placard  […though I guess he genuinely found it amusing to be still holding it up for the whole world to see ! ! !  ] ……..I could sense the odd stares from my fellow passengers, imagining which rotten-idiot on earth, could have a name like “KILL” and still keep it !   [ My boss Raghu later joked that had this been UK, I’d have been shot by now 🙂 ]

Out of the blue, Hameed asked me, “Do you smoke?”
“No” , I replied…. [was  that why he wanted to KILL me ?]


“Well ….. kind of….but just socially.”

“Aaah!”, he looked surprised, “In Egypt, people who drink also smoke!”

[Right….but back in India, we are not mandated by the constituition to do that !]

He took my Passport and papers and pro-actively filled the Immigration forms for me…. also went over to the counter and executed the formalities, while I just had to stand and watch….he seemed to be having quite a clout among the airport officials, and that saved me a lot of hassles.

Once we were done and walking towards the exit, he quitely handed me a $5 note …..   [ Huh ??? Is this the way it works here in Egypt ? Do “tips” go the reverse way ? ]

Before I could ask, he pointed towards the Duty-Free shop and asked me to buy him a box of a particular brand of foreign cigarettes …explaining that it was his brother’s marriage the next day, and only genuine passengers could shop there…..

 Ok … this was why he wanted to know if I smoked ! The picture was clear now….Neverthless, I agreed and he seemed quite grateful.

He took me to my supposed ‘LIMOUSINE’ , which turned out to be nothing but an ordinary Mitsubishi Lancer!
[Here in Egypt, normal taxis are these cranky, noisy, 20-30 year old, junk cars that seldom have their basic functionalities (brakes, horns, lights …..) in place; that any relatively new car, with a functioning Air-Con , is termed a ‘Limousine’. While a ‘normal’ taxi would charge about 25 Egyptian Pounds from the airport to downtown Cairo, a ‘limo’ would cost 110 !   ]

After bidding goodbye to Hameed, I got into my limo and began my 45-minute ride towards Hotel Conrad in downtown Cairo ………


One Response to In the land of CLEOPATRA !!!

  1. Saurabh says:

    Mr KILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! awsome narration man!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could feel everthing going in front of my eyes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! cool bloggin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! well thr r lot more to NJOY in your platter!!!!!!!! keep updating regularly new experiences…………….

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