Summer has basically arrived here in the Kingdom, bringing with it endless hazy blue skies and freakishly consistent temperatures. It hasn’t gotten unbearably hot as of yet, but every week the mercury slowly rises, and by the end of May temps will settle around 110 degrees. I’ve been looking forward to the change in weather, especially the end of the dust storm season, but I’m sure the last few weeks of school in June and having to constantly transition from frigidly efficient air conditioned classrooms to blisteringly hot playgrounds will change my opinion.
After experiencing the squalor and beauty of Cairo, we continued our holiday in another historically significant, but much more sanitary, center of Islam: Istanbul.
Our flight out of Cairo was about what we had come to expect. Unorganized lines and procedures that aren’t really explained, followed by long queues and lingering mix of powerful body odors masked by even more overpowering oil based perfumes. The terminal our flight left from was fairly nice, but the small number of bars and the horrible quality of service meant a wait that felt much longer than necessary. The flight was relatively uneventful, although there was a very interesting older Egyptian gentleman who felt inclined to disregard most of the rules (including trying to smoke) and eventually passed out lying with his feet in the aisle. He was travelling with a bottle of what looked like booze and a dozen or more cartons of cigarettes in his plastic bag carry on and nothing else. We didn’t see him again after passing through passport control.
Landing in Istanbul was quite refreshing. It was still early spring, with bare trees and patches of brown in the fields and forests surrounding the city, but everything else was shaded in various hues of green. Having seen nothing but sandy shades of tan for the past 6 months, it was a nice change of pace. The weather was relatively beautiful, a chilly 55 degrees with a light breeze and a fine mist, but it felt wonderful to experience natural coldness and dust-free air. We collected our baggage and hailed a cab, not having to physically push anyone away or having to haggle, then set out for our hotel. Twenty minutes later we arrived. There were no horns, no bumps or scrapes, no irrational lane changes, no death grips on door handles. I paid the driver what the meter read, tipped him without him demanding it, and it was finished. I was perfectly content with my experience at that point, and was almost willing to end my holiday early for fear of everything suddenly going to hell.
Thankfully my fears weren’t realized.
The Bosphorus. Europe on the left, Asia on the right.
I started the first leg of my spring break with a 5 day visit to Cairo. It was quite different than what I had anticipated, but it was nothing short of memorable.
Myself and Girl arrived about an hour late after a very crowded and very loud flight from Dammam on EgyptAir. It was actually better than what most people had warned us about, considering how cheap our tickets were and that EgyptAir has a less than favorable reputation as a low-cost Middle Eastern carrier. Customs took a fairly long time by Western standards, though it was a breeze compared to Saudi, and after collecting our bags we met up with a driver I had arranged through our hotel. We made a pit stop at the duty free, then walked to his car.
This was the last semblance of normalcy for the next five days.