Your Hand in My Hand

Me and Mrs. Owenn
Saturday 19
th February 2022


I woke up at 6am this morning and I'm so glad I did because I had forgotten to properly set an alarm. I usually get up at six every morning Monday to Friday but not at the weekends. I forgot today was a Saturday.  

We got moving fairly quickly. I think we slept with one eye open, never allowing ourselves to slip into a deep sleep. In not time we were in the foyer ready to leave. Julie checked-out, paying for our mediocre room service pizza whilst I took yesterday's duty free purchases back to the car.

It wasn't at all windy today which was a relief. When I turned the corner into the car park around the back my path was blocked by a large piece of twisted metal on the ground. I looked at it a little confused at first until I turned to the left and was absolutely shocked by what I saw.

A massive strip of a steel roof had come down and covered a row of about eight cars. There was debris everywhere, pieces of foam insulation were strewn all over, with mangled iron sheets scattered about the car park. Another large piece jutted up into the air wedged in between two cars which made it look like a disaster zone. 

Only then did I think about our car.

It was a huge relief to see our little Fiat 500  had only been hit by a few pieces of foam. Not a scratch in sight! We were so lucky to have parked it where we did.

 Our Uber taxi got us to terminal 5 just ater 7am. It was a little busier this morning than it was yesterday. Unfortunately, despite not having any luggage to check-in, we still needed to join the queue for the check-in desks to move our bags from an Egypt Air flight at 2pm (which BA had reallocated us) onto this morning's BA flight.

We explained the whole story to her, also that I had mispelt Julie's surname whilst completing the passenger information online, last night. The name wasn't a problem because it was just an extra 'n' on the end. She spoke to the baggage handlers and assured us of her cofidence in them finding the bags and reallocating them to this morning's flight.

Check-in done me and Mrs Owenn walked through the security gates and made a b-line for breakfast. We decided against Fortnum & Mason this morning opting for something more substantial at Gordon Ramsey's Plane Food. 

We had been given £17 in food vouchers (fot two) from BA this morning which Julie blew almost all on a Bucks Fizz. The food was good. My Eggs Florentine were perfect and Julie's hearty Full English was tasty. However, I couldn't help but feel disappointed when we looked down from our table across the view of the whole terminal and found the Caviar House & Seafood Prunier Bar! I was still craving that scrambled egg with truffle.

We didn't have much to wait this morning. By the time we had finished eating our gate number had popped up.

We hurried around duty free for another round of champagne and chocolate and made our way across to gate B46, which was some distance away. We even had to catch a shuttle train to reach it.

By the time we got there we they were already boarding. We settled into our seats, not our usual as these were allocated to us at  check-in this morning but at least we were sat together and there wasn't another person sat next to us which was a nice bonus.

Julie didn't get to meet the captain today which she was glad about. After yesterday's experience she never wants to get invited into the cockpit ever again!

Later the cabin crew brought a bottle of water and a fruit cereal bar for our breakfast but we were hungier than that so we ordered through their webpage a tapas box designed by Spanish chef Jose Pizarro. Filled with several little Spanish influenced snacks it made for really nice lunch.

About three hours into the flight, we flew over a stunning snow capped mountain at the end of a peninsula. I'm sure it was Mount Athos near Thessaloniki, Greece. Down there somewhere was an increcible monastery.

The next half hour we entertained  ourselves spotting random Greek islands as we skirted the coast of Turkey.

Before we knew it we reached the African continent, somewhere over the green and fertile Nile delta, just East of Alexandira. Ten minutes later we were flying over an arid landscape as we began our descent into Cairo.


With a mix of nerves and excitement Julie followed our progress out the window all the way until we touched down smoothly. Although after yesterday's emergency landing any sort of landing would have been smooth in comparrison.

It was now just after 4:30pm local time. I sent Hani Mustafa, our Intrepid Travel tour guide a message  to let him know we had landed. I had already told him we were going to be late for our welcome meeting and tour of the Khalili markets.

We disembarked, queued through the health status check, showing proof of our fully Covid-19 vaccinated status and then queue through immigration we met Ramadan (as in the Holy month) another representative from Intrepid.waiting for us to take us to the hotel.

He held up a piece of paper with our names on it. As soon as we ackowledged each other he smiled and said "Allahu Akbar". You could sense his relief. He had been waiting for us last night without any information about what happened to our flight that never arrived.

We followed him to the baggage reclaim area and spotted our red and black backpack but looked around in vain for our other one. Ramadam was at hand to show me where to report a lost baggage. I completed a form and was given a reference number to check back if and when it ever got found.

Fortunately we had split out packing into both bags so we were going to be fine for clothes until the middle of the week.

We stepped outside the terminal into a wet Cairo. It had been raining all day which was apparently unusual for this time of year. Ramadam wasn't coming with us. He was instead staying at the airport to help more travellers. He had been very helpful and looking back I should have tipped him but the opportunity didn't arise.

With our one bag safely with us we left the airport in the back of a small minibus, and drove for about 40 minutes into the city. There wasn't much to see along the way, there were plenty of cars on the road, a few impressive illuminated mosques and palaces, and then the busy train station.

I knew we weren't far from our hotel when we  crossed the Nile and saw the 187m tall Cairo Tower.

We arrived at the Pharoah's Hotel just before 7pm. It felt so good to finally arrive. It had been an epic few days to get here.

The staff were all huddled behind a gold pharaonic themed reception desk, with clear perspect screen to separate us from  them. Covid precautions and restrictions were still in place. We even had to continue wearing our face masks inside public places as we still did back in Wales.

Thay handed us the key to our room, but before we could leave I wanted them to breakdown a 200 Egyptian pounds (LEI - which was about £10) into smaller notes so I could tip the porter who was inevitably going to insist on carrying our solitary bag up to our room.

Knowing full well why I needed the change they only broke it into two 100LEI notes. I was too tired to bother asking for smaller notes. The porters could see the exchange, then there was a scuffle between them to get to our bag first!

The victor picked up our bag and tried picking up all our other smaller bags. We got into the lift, followed by our porter with out any thought to social distancing. Tightly crammed in we slowly ascended to the seventh floor and found our way to room 702.  

It was a nice enough room, but it had one bed too many. The third bed was even blocking most of the door into the bathroom. It was a very odd layout.

Our porter came in and gave us a guided tour using sign language, to justify his tip I suppose. 

He then switched the television on and spent over a minute scrolling down the TV channels before stopping on an angry man giving an angry sermon in Arabic. I don't know why he personally selected this channel for us. Anyway, I handed him the 100LEI, the most I've ever tipped a porter before, and shut the door behind him as he left.

We quickly unpacked to see what we had missing. Most of out toiletries uncluding our toothbrushes were in the other bag. Also our sleeping bags, my flip flops, my Arab scarf and plenty more items we would have to do without or replace,

Thinking about it realistically if they don't find our stray bag by the time we leave Cairo tomorrow afternoon then it won't catch us up as we're constantly on the move on this tour.

We  didn't spend too long in our room.

It wasn't big surprise that we were hungry so we returned to the hotel foyer, using the stairs this time and not the lift and went inside the restaurant that was attached to the hotel. 

It was called Catalonia but I needn't have worried about it being a poor imitation of a Spanish restaurant, the menu was full of traditional Egyptian and Middle Eastern dishes which got me excited.

But first a drink. We ordered two beers, both were Egytpian. When they arrived we were shocked to see that the Sakara 'El-King' was a stonking 10% in alcohol. I wasn't looking forward to drinking it as beers that strong are too much, however this was very drinkable.

When we came to ordering I couldn't decide between ta'amia, Egyptian style falafels made from broad beans, or fattoush, a Lebanese salad, or melokhaya, a soup made from the melokhaya plant which grows exclusively along the banks of the Nile, so I ordered all three! Julie opted for the lamb "feathers" which we took as meaning lamb chops.

In the meantime, whilst we waited for our food, our tour guide Hani arrived.

He was so pleased to see us. He had a great bubbly  character, we could tell we were going to get on well with him.

We weren't the only ones who were late for the welcome meeting. Hani introduced us to Rebecca, who was British/Irish, a teacher, living in Paris. Also to Michelle, who I recognised from the flight over today, as she was sat behind us. She was American, from Florida and worked within the field of Mental Health, doing exactly what, I didn't quite get.

Anyway, whilst Hani went through all the important tour information our food arrived. There was so much of it, it was quite embarrassing. The portions were massive.

I began with the soup. It came with a portion of rice. Hani recomended that I should scoop out some the soup and pour it over the rice. I didn't know what to expect. I had eaten it once before in a Middle Eastern resaturant in Bangor and all I could remember was it tasted really green.

I had my first mouthfull and loved it.  It packed some flavour with plenty of garlic in there. When the rice ran out I ate it like a soup. It may have looked like spinach but there was an interesting slimey texture to it, similar to how okra gets when cooked.

I then had the ta'amia, three spicy falafels, small flattened patties, green on the inside and tasted delicious. I shared one half with Julie but the rest I wolfed down myself.

Hani continued to talk about the itinerary and a few of the optional excursion to consider.

I was getting full but couldn't waste my salad. The fattoush was no ordinary salad. I'd eaten it before, even made it mysef at home. A classic combination of tomato, cucumber and onion, with a zingy zesty spice called sumac added to the mix and some crispy fried pitta bread for texture.

The food was amazing. It was worthy of a five star hotel.

The end of the meeting coincided with the end of the meal. The bill came to 425LEI which was great value.

We wished Michelle good night. She was a solo traveller but was sharing a room with Rebecca this evening.

Rebecca joined us in asking Hani where could we find an ATM. He decided to escort us to a nearby HSBC bank but it was out of order.  We continued a little further to a KFC. It was quite odd seeing Colonel Sander's face looking back at us. 

"This is an Egyptian version," he said "Kairo Fried Camel!" He was joking of course!   He brought us here because there was an ATM next to the front door, and it was working.

Cashed up we crossed the road to a pharmacy that was still open to buy some essential toiletries, like toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb.

When we got back to the hotel it was strainght back to the room where Julie noticed I had bought toothpaste suitable for chikdren aged 2-5 years old! I felt so stupid!

We spent some time moving two twin beds together and organising our clothes ready for packing in the morning. We were leaving Cairo at the end of tomorrow. There was also an early start to look forward too, so after briefly watching some more rivetting sermons from the pulpit we switched the lights off and got to sleep.

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