Takeoff and landing
You know that sequence in “The Graduate” when Ben’s post-collegiate life starts to lose shape,* and he’s gliding listlessly from one day to the next, as if they were literally arranged like a shotgun apartment? He rolls out of bed with Mrs. Robinson and reaches for the doorknob. The hotel room opens straight into his bedroom. And when he dives into bed, he’s actually diving into his family’s pool, surfacing only to float along some more – this time, on an inflatable lounge chair. Every day and every moment merge seamlessly. There’s no governing sense of time or place. There’s no hint of what’s on the horizon.
That’s sort of what flying to Egypt was like. Except:
– more emergency instructions delivered in German, courtesy airline wunderkind Lufthansa
– snacks around every corner
– no one came anywhere close to catching a ray of sunlight outside the plane, let alone nurturing a pristine, golden tan like Dustin Hoffman’s circa 1976
Instead, we looked like this at various stages of the trip:
Basically, I couldn’t tell you where yesterday stopped and today began. But I could try.
To spare the mundane details: We left Boston around 5 p.m. on an enormous double-decker plane. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, we switched time zones, which transformed our evening into early morning. That means we landed at the labyrinthine Frankfurt airport around 5 a.m. Back home, and by our biological clocks, it was 11 p.m. After a 4.5-hour layover, we boarded an airbus to Cairo – and switched time zones again. This time, we went forward an hour. We landed here a little after 4 p.m., received impromptu medical inspections from security guards wearing surgical masks, bought our visas and rode a coach bus through the suburb Heliopolis, which literally means “New Egypt.” We finally arrived around 6 p.m. at our cozy hotel, located at the heart of Zamalek, a relatively swanky, tourist-laden district on Gezira Island.
We’re only a couple of blocks from the Nile.
Right now, it’s a little after midnight in Cairo, but the city’s still awake. From the near-constant cacophony of car horns to methodical calls to prayer, Egypt’s capital feels like a sensory overload right now. Or maybe I’m just exhausted? Probably a little of both.
PS: This is what our room looks like:
*Though he does get really into sunbathing.