Day 23 was the longest day of my journey so far. Because my flight left Dubai at 4:45am, it meant essentially pulling an all nighter (I napped from 11pm-12:30am and then snagged a cab to the airport at 1:30am). DXB airport, and the EgyptAir check-in line in particular, were surprisingly busy when I arrived at 2am. As I had expected, when I looked around, I was seemingly the only westerner in line. When I got near the gate area, I wasn’t sure if the flight would serve food since it was not a terribly long flight, so I ran over to the food court. Unfortunately, the best option was McDonald’s (at 4am) and they weren’t serving breakfast yet.
Once I got on the plane, I had a pretty good experience with EgyptAir and they gave all instructions in English after doing so in Arabic. The reviews on the airline were that their planes were old and their service wasn’t very good – not a ringing endorsement. However, when I got on the plane, my seat had a USB charger and they had a couple of American movies. I chose to watch Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. My seat on the United flight I took to Dubai didn’t even have a USB charger port or electric plug – so this was an upgrade. The food on the other hand was very strange. They ended up serving breakfast, which I was moderately excited about until I opened it. The first thing I noticed was a hot dog (?) sitting next to the eggs and potatoes. They also had rice pudding, which wasn’t bad. The hot dog freaked me out though and I didn’t eat the eggs because of it.
As we began to approach Cairo international, I was really hoping to see the pyramids. To my disappointment, we didn’t go far enough west as we circled to line up to the airport, and the visibility was relatively low even though there were no clouds.
Once the plane landed, I took my first steps onto the African continent and that’s when things became strange. The terminal smelled like cigarette smoke despite no smoking signs. Eventually I found people just smoking in the terminal and it seemed like no one cared. Another interesting situation was that there are really no seats to wait in until they open up the gate area an hour or so before the flight. For someone that is connecting, like me, this poses a problem because I was there for 3 hours. Eventually I found a seat, this wasn’t easy, and sat next to a girl from Sudan. This was the first of many great people I met today. She was headed to America to meet up with her husband. She didn’t speak much English, but we spoke about life in Sudan, fashion (she was interested to hear if women had to wear certain attire in the US), dancing (she’s a break dancer) and music (Celine Dion & Britney Spears… interesting). Anyway, it helped pass the time and was a lot of fun.
After she left, my gate opened and I (as well as everyone else) had to go through a metal detector. However, the detector went off for half the people, and they didn”t even make you walk back through. I set it off, and nobody even talked to me about it, so I after waiting a second to hear what they wanted me to do, I picked up my bag and walked on. Not comforting.
On my second plane, from Cairo to Barcelona, I once again did not see the pyramids. I believe if I had been on the other side of the plane, I might have had a chance, but I will never know. I do know that we flew right over Cairo and Alexandria on the way.
Once I landed in Barcelona, I was on my own and had to figure things out. I took every opportunity possible to start conversations with randoms. Given that the college academic year recently ended, there are many Americans, and students from around the world for that matter, backpacking through Europe. Everyone seemingly is looking to meet people, and I was no exception. I also stayed at a hostel, more on that later, which helped facilitate meeting people. One of my 7 roommates, a 26 year old Egyptian, was actually on my flight from Cairo, and we ended up hanging out the rest of the day. Real cool guy. I also had extended time with people from the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Missouri, and California. Just from walking the city for a few hours, I can already see why people love this place. Its on the Mediterranean and it has mountains – what more do you need? The area I am staying in, Las Ramblas, also has the narrow streets that I always love navigating.
A couple things I learned/re-learned about myself through these conversations and the experience in Barcelona so far. Barcelona is a late night, seemingly hard core clubbing kind of scene where people stay out until 4am. In a previous life, I might have been able to do this, and I still may kick it into gear for a night here, but this is not me anymore. Just hearing the people I met talk about what they were going to do later in the night was enough for me. My Egyptian friend and I went to a bar, but ended up back at the hostel to drink wine with others in the lobby, so it was not a terribly late night. After pulling an all nighter the previous night, this was absolutely fine with me.
The second thing I learned is that I am WAY beyond staying in hostels at this point. I should also note that one of the guys I met, one of his roommates was a 65 year old Finnish gentlemen, so its not all people in their early 20s, but most of them are. Anyway, for one night, it worked out and was a block away from the flat I am staying the next few days, but I am going to try and avoid hostels moving forward. While they are great at helping you meet people, and this one even gave us a free dinner at a bar down the street which was actually pretty decent. But on the downside, people wake you up in the middle of the night (4am or later) when they come back from the bars, they also wake you up when they leave at 6am in the morning, and they aren’t always 100% clean. Last night was probably 50% clean, so I need some time to feel clean again.
With that said, Natalie and a buddy, John, are getting to Barcelona from Germany and London today and it should be a great time.