The next morning was surprisingly devoid of crushing hangover. Apparently I had laid claim to the bed. I walked out into the living room, shook N awake on the couch and told him we needed to pack our stuff up and get to the airport. Up until this point, we still hadn’t paid for the room at 4 Floors, as the manager hadn’t taken any credit card info from me in advance.
He was supposed to come process our payment the previous afternoon, but he ended up stuck on the Asian side with a family commitment. After a few calls to tell him we were leaving and wanted to pay, he finally materialized. I didn’t want to Anjelique the hotel.
Since all the the local taxi co’s only spoke Turkish (which I do not speak), the manager was kind enough to call and order us a cab. With the bill paid and our stuff jammed in the trunk, it was off to IST.
I was looking forward to using the Star Alliance lounge at IST, because it is one of the best *A lounges in the system. I had not made *Gold, but I had my United Club membership card with me, so I figured everything would be ok. It was not. N and I entered the lounge, I handed the dragon my ID, United Club card and boarding pass (Egypt Air, a Star Alliance member). She told me this wasn’t ok for lounge access. I informed her that a paid United Club membership entitles me to enter Star Alliance lounges throughout the system. She conferred with a colleague and then turned back to me noting that my United Club card had expired in mid-July (it was now I believe the end of August). I told her I was aware, but that my replacement card had been sent to my apartment in NY and I had not been there since May. As a result, I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with my replacement card. She steadfastly refused to let us enter the lounge and kept repeated that I needed to display a valid card in order to gain entry. Given as I had explained my circumstances to LX and LH lounge dragons in the interval since my card had expired and they had all been understanding, I was rather vexed by her behavior. It would have been nice if United had sent me my replacement card by May, but once I left the country what was I supposed to do? Fly home just to pick up the mail?
On the other end of the terminal, there was another lounge that my Priority Pass Card provided us access to, so we camped out there until boarding.
When boarding was called for our flight, N and I left the lounge and made our way to the gate…of course the aircraft had not even arrived yet. Nice first impression MS (Egypt Air). While it was a long wait for the equipment to get in, you can spot some rarer birds at IST than your run of the mill Euro airport.
Shortly after the aircraft got in, the crew cleaned and catered it, and we were ready to board. My initial impression upon boarding the MS aircraft was favorable. I expected it to be an utter horror show, but this turned out to be superior to many if not most Euro carriers for shorthaul economy.
The seats were well padded and comfortable. There was ample pitch, and despite this being a sub-2hr flight in economy, we were served a hot meal (by an incredibly pretty stewardess nonetheless).
There was a fidgety Egyptian business man next to me who spent most of the flight walking to and from the lav, hassling the flight crew or taking his sport coat off and then putting it back on, but otherwise it was a quiet, pleasant flight.
After touchdown, we taxied to the modern EgyptAir terminal. It’s much bigger than it needs to be for the amount of traffic coming in these days, but it was a very nice, spotless facility. This being my first trip to Egypt, I expected a rank, sweaty third world airport and I was very pleasantly surprised.
N and I found each other once we deplaned and both immediately asked if the other had noticed the very pretty stewardess. We took this as a harbinger of things to come in Egypt. When I got to immigration, I handed my passport over. The officer thumbed through the entire thing, then asked where my visa was. I told him I assumed that you paid at the border and the immigration official put the visa in. This is not the case. There are a bunch of kiosks before immigration which don’t seem to be government run. We went over to what I think was a Barclay’s bank window, and the guy inside quoted N and I a price for two visas. He wouldn’t accept credit cards and wanted British Pounds. Luckily, I had a bunch of GBP in my spy wallet, so I forked over the cash, he put the visas in our passports and N agreed to cover the taxi ride into town as payback.
Outside the terminal we tried to bargain a taxi down to a rate I had read was “fair,” but no one was biting. As there weren’t many if any other flights coming in, we quickly realized we were going to have to adjust our price demands or walk to town. N and I went back to the most reasonable black and white driver we had spoken with, bargained him down a little further, then agreed to the fare. We tried to be vague about where we were going to avoid him up-charging us for going to a luxury hotel, and in the end I think we did ok.
The cab was ancient, but we threw our bags in, climbed aboard and took in the brown, sun baked sights as we made our way to the cradle of Egyptian civilization.