Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “A” is for Arrival

plane at airport at dusk

It’s finally April, and I’ve returned from my month-long hiatus to tell you all about what I’ve been up to while away.

So where did I go? Well, it may be April Fool’s Day, but I’m not playing you for a fool. As the title of this blog post implies, I did in fact go to Egypt, and it was an incredible experience!

However, it started off kind of rocky…or should I say turbulent.

From names being misspelled on passports to three out of four visas initially being denied a month before the trip, even though all applications were submitted together with the same documentation, it was starting to look like we wouldn’t make it.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take 35 years and a kidney sold on the black market to process a visa application in Egypt.

(Obviously, I’m being sarcastic here, but seriously speaking, the immigration system in the US is a hot freaking mess!)

We reapplied with the same documents, they were accepted this time (which makes you wonder what was really the problem the first time), and we were approved.

Now it was time to pack, and again, I struggled. What would I wear? Knowing the conservative culture I was going into, I knew I had to dress modestly (i.e., don’t show too much skin), but what was something modest that would also keep me cool in the hot desert? I also couldn’t ignore the pounds I’d gained since 2020, and despite my best efforts, the inches haven’t been coming off quite as fast as I had planned in January. Not that there was anyone I was really trying to look cute for—I was going with family—but I didn’t want to look like a sausage either. I hadn’t added much to my wardrobe since the last time I cleaned out my closet, so before I could do any shopping in Egypt, I first had to make a quick shopping spree at home.

And raid my mom’s closet.

Several short- and mid-sleeve, non-cleavage-showing blouses; some scarfs; a few pairs of leggings; and a couple dresses later, I was all packed and ready for departure, but we still had a long journey ahead of us.

We missed the window to catch a direct flight to Cairo, so we had to book the longer itinerary of flying past our destination to Doha, Qatar, and then turning back.

But before we could even catch our flight, there was an issue with the luggage. Two of our four bags were overweight. And I’m not talking half a pound to a couple pounds overweight, I’m talking “what the heck did you pack? Sweaters and boots??” overweight. We spent 15 to 20 minutes at the check-in counter shuffling items between checked bags and carry-ons to meet that 50-pound weight limit. My suitcase was the lightest at 37 pounds, but it was also the smallest and already packed pretty tightly. By the time we were able to squeeze in my mom’s extra 13 pounds, my suitcase was nearly bursting at the seams.

It was clear that the first order of business once we landed in Egypt was to buy another suitcase; otherwise, we wouldn’t have anything to bring our souvenirs back home in. And boy, did we have a lot of souvenirs, but that’s a post for a later date.

Once our bags were checked, we headed for the security checkpoint. It was a slow-moving line, as always, but this is why you come to the airport three hours before your international flight, right?

Of course, there were a few passengers in line racing against the clock who tried to jump ahead. One guy said, “It doesn’t work that way!” However, I’m someone who believes in karma. That could easily be me one day stressing out because my flight unexpectedly got moved up and now I’m rushing with three small children to get to the gate before it closes in ten minutes. Shoot, that was me once, trying to catch a flight to Seattle at five in the morning in a line that stretched to the exit. We used my 90-year-old granddaddy needing a wheelchair as an excuse to go through the TSA pre-check.

So, I let the lady and her family pass me, much to my brother’s chagrin.

And then Mama’s carry-on bag had to be searched. Her clear carry-on bag.

In the end, none of it mattered because all of our flights were delayed. Every. Single. One.

You’d think I’d use all that extra time to put a dent into my reading list, but no. By the time we made it to our first gate, I was suffering from a major headache and had already popped four Tylenols.

At least the meals they provided us on board were tasty. And I slept more than I expected to—once my headache calmed down—which is surprising given how uncomfortable those tiny seats were. I guess when we requested the extra legroom, we had to sacrifice arm and hip room. Or am I just that fat? Well, this just gives me the incentive to start saving my money now, so that the next time I catch a flight, it’s in first class so that I can truly stretch.

And first class on Qatar Airways is NOOIIIIICE!

Our journey began on a Friday afternoon. After approximately 18 hours of total flight time, and 9 hours of layovers (not including the delays), we arrived at Cairo Airport just after midnight Sunday morning, where our travel agency had a man waiting for us at baggage claim. He quickly got us through Customs (and when I say quickly, I mean quickly—I don’t think the agent even looked at our faces when he stamped our passports). We waited about an hour for our bags. It took so long that I was beginning to fear they’d gotten lost amid all the delays, which would have been a nightmare because I was in desperate need of a hot shower and to get into clean clothes (at least I was smart enough to pack an extra pair of panties in my carry-on, which I’d immediately changed into at our second stop in Doha).

Finally, our bags came down the conveyor belt, and once we loaded them onto our cart, we headed outside, where our tour coordinator was waiting for us in a van to take us to the Steigenberger Hotel El Tahrir in the heart of downtown Cairo, where the staff welcomed us with hibiscus juice as we waited to get checked in.

At long last, we were finally there. But there wasn’t much time to rest. By the time we were settled into our rooms, it was around 2AM, and we only had about five hours to sleep before we had to rise again and begin our nine-day sightseeing tour, beginning with…

The Great Pyramids of Giza!


This April for the A to Z Challenge, I’m sharing my experience of traveling to Egypt last month. These posts likely won’t be in chronological order, depending on what memory each letter strikes up, but if you’d like to follow me on this journey, subscribe below.

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32 thoughts on “Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “A” is for Arrival

  1. One thing I have learned about air travel: buffer time is really important. I used to get really stressed whenever I had to fly anywhere. I had to literally run through an airport once to catch a connecting flight. But so long as I can put a little buffer time into my itinerary, things really aren’t so bad.

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