from paris to cairo

Thursday, 4 July 2013

i flew from southampton on saturday to meet my mum in paris before flying off to cairo the next day. up in the early hours of the morning, i walked to the station seeing two foxes on the way. the street lights were turning off as i approached the station. 

i made it to paris by 10:30 and waited for my mum to show up at montparnasse station. kids were playing on the tracks and delayed her train by 25 minutes. it was the first time i was seeing my mum in 11 months so it was great to be able to catch up before my trip to gaza. in the afternoon, we booked in a hotel nearby the station and went shopping for the few missing things in my luggage. i never managed to pack such a light bag, only one of the compartments is full and my tripod is taking a third of the space. i guess i will find out later whether this is a good thing. the summer sales had just started to my wallet’s joy. we chilled in the evening and try to make up for the time which had gone by.

at breakfast the next day, the demonstrations in egypt figured as top story on the news, which added to the tension of my departure. not to mention the fco guidelines advising to cancel any trip to the country.

before heading to the airport, we walked down to a small park and enjoyed the settling summer heat. parents were out with their kids making the most of their sunday.

 the plane was half empty, i heard someone saying that the prices went down of two hundred euros for the flight that day due to people cancelling their trips. at passport control, the french officer asked me if I was travelling alone and my age, looking surprise when i answered before adding: “you know there's a war there.” reassuring. deep down i had to trust my instincts.

the flight went pretty fast, it was a quiet and pleasing one. i watched contagion, which is probably not the best of choices when travelling on a plane. People who have watched it will understand. not far from my seat, i caught a grown-up man laughing to one of the latest animation movie. i found it sweet. 

the sunset was outstanding ranging from strong orange and red to pink tones. as we approached destination, billions of lights started to appear on the ground, drawing up the lines of a city: cairo. i went through passport control without a question or comment this time. the immigration officer was too worried about his phone conversation to even notice me. another stamp joined my growing passport collection.

i had a chat with our taxi driver, maghdi, while waiting for other members of the convoy to arrive.
he welcomed me with a smile and explained that today was a happy day for the egyptian people. he told me about the demonstrations and explained how the situation for egyptians got worse within a year than it was under moubarak. he said: “everyone is out on the streets demonstrating, all the houses are empty. they are many people out demonstrating, many more than during the revolution.” his wife was keeping him updated on the latest news with regular phone calls. he told me his son was in tahrir square and you could tell that he wished he could be there too. he seemed proud that people were united in refusing to put up with another year like this one.

he told me how the lack of tourists visiting affected his family. he has five children including a six-week old baby named jasmine adding that it is expensive to have children and how he told his wife five was enough.

he told me about his hopes for a new president who would govern for all the egyptian people, no matter which religion they practice or where they live and his hope for the country to prosper.
to my great surprise, harry fear, the organiser of the convoy taking me to gaza, was the other member to arrive.
on the way to the hotel, we zig-zaged between horse carts, tuck-tucks, trucks and pedestrians in what seemed like an organised mayhem. there were no lines on the road, but we managed to reach the hotel without any incident.

we booked in, met up with other convoy members who arrived earlier and decided to go out for a chicha, which seemed like an adequate ice-breaker for a group of internationals meeting up for the first time in cairo.

with 16 different nationalities and background of all sorts, it seem like we will all learn from on another and bring our own skills to the project. it is all very exciting. it is now 2am and it’s time i take some rest before exploring cairo tomorrow.


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