When we landed at “6th of October” airport, we were asked to follow the “follow me” car. We were parked on the ramp until we took care of paperwork. This included passing all of our luggage thru an x-ray machine. We came to realize that a lot of stuff was done in Egypt for no other reason than “its policy”, whether it makes any kind of sense or not has no bearing on why it was being done. For everything there is a “carbon copy” form that must be filled out and signed by the filler and one of us…..
We finally got to meet Eddie Gould of GASE, our dispatchers and handlers extra-ordinaire. These guys are consummate professionals who take pains and pride in delivering their pilots to their destinations with the least amount of hassle. We then moved our plane to the personal hangar of General Badran, another excellent friend of aviation, who has now become our friend for life as well. We spent quite some time with General Badran and in the evening Eddie brought us to one of the most lavish and extravagant hotels in Cairo, the Fairmont, that I have ever stayed in. Eddie invited us to a pool side dinner, which did justice to rest of the hotel. We spent two nights in Cairo and they were well worth everything….. what an amazing time…. Thank you Eddie and Ahmed…. In discussing things over dinner, Eddie and Ahmed recommended that we make some more changes to our routing, which I agreed to as these guys have local knowledge that is invaluable in avoiding unpleasant events for the pilots.
We decided to extend our stay by one day in Cairo to be able to go to the Pyramids, meet Charlie Brown (Eddie’s favorite camel that dearly loves him) and visit Khan Khalili. The day was hot as heck and we were pretty exhausted by the time we came back to our hotel. The next morning we departed for Aswan, which was our departure airport (for customs) and we needed to buy enough Avgas to cross the Arabian desert on our way to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. While on the ground at Aswan, we were met by the local handlers from Egypt Air who asked us if we wanted to ride in their bus to the terminal and I said yes, I could use the bathroom, the guy turned to me and said, that will be $60 extra. I have never before paid $60 for going to the bathroom and I was not about to let these guys put a blemish on my record. I jokingly asked him if it was free to just walk to the edge of the apron and relieve oneself….he did not see the humor in it while Haris was laughing at the whole thing. The temperature was so high that I was afraid we may not be able to leave the ground. I explained the theory and concept of high density altitude take offs to Haris, but that really did not have to be explained as he knew and understood what was expected of him. We took off and headed North, instead of going East as it was “no reason, just policy”. Upon reaching 11,000 feet we were allowed to turn towards the Red Sea and to our crossing of the Arabian desert. Along the way, we saw some spectacular sites of mountains cropping out of the sand, huge lava bed rock and old craters, and some areas that were lush green and looked strangely out of place in the middle of the Arabian desert. We ran out of water in the first three hours and had to chew gum the rest of the way to keep our minds away from wanting to drink water. It took us nine long hours to reach Al Ain and it was close to mid night when we got there……but it was well worth it. We are 1/3rd of the way into this adventure….