Arriving in Cairo and Keeping an Open Mind

This is a continuation of the “vacation run” – a 50/50 mileage run / vacation my wife and I took to Cairo in January, 2015. Previous posts include: Etihad flight from Washington to Abu Dhabi, and Etihad lounge hopping and Abu Dhabi to Cairo.

Our Etihad A320 as viewed from the bus at the remote gate.

Our Etihad A320 as viewed from the bus at the remote gate.

We arrived in Cairo to a remote gate. I’m not sure that there are any non-remote gates, but nonetheless I was impressed with how fast we proceeded. The first bus was just business class and I was especially thankful of Nasra, our flight attendant because I had stupidly forgotten my personal bag as I carried both my wife and my rollerboards down the stairs – the bus was in motion as soon as Nasra handed me my bag.

We entered the terminal and bought our visas. We had hoped to get multiple entry but the “banks” present would only sell us a single entry. This was contrary to my research but at 4am, I didn’t feel I could argue too much.

From there things devolved. We were supposed to have a “meet and greet” service from the Marriott meet us and escort us through customs and immigration.  We saw no one so we made our way through immigration and customs.  No big deal.

Once out of customs I was struck by the lack of anyone waiting for us. Clearly the Marriott had dropped the ball. I started asking official looking folks. One gentleman,  Rashed offered to help and to further bolster his legitimacy, escorted us over to the tourism police.

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From there he called the hotel. Pro tip: always have your itinerary and hotel contact info printed out He handed me his phone, which I took, skeptical that it was the Marriott,  but I spoke to them, when the person I was speaking to put me on hold, I was put a bit at ease. It was a Marriott sounding “on hold” music and statement, right down to their latest catchphrase: “travel brilliantly.” At this point I figured that they’d have to really want to deceive me to go to that level and I’m a nobody, so I took him as being honestly helpful.
While we waited for the car from the Marriott, Rashed recommended that we take a seat in the aptly named Aero Cafe,  where we shared the area with a rather exhausted person.

Exhausted at the Aero Cafe of Cairo Airport

Exhausted at the Aero Cafe of Cairo Airport

A few moments later, Rashed came over and escorted us outside to a waiting car that had no Marriott markings what-so-ever. I made it clear to the driver-George- that I would be paying the Marriott for the transfer, not him directly. Clearly, I was not feeling trusting at 3am in the morning. I felt this statement made it clear that we wouldn’t be “had”, at least I hoped. Luckily that rang true.

Our transfer to the Marriott. We came to find out that Ramas - the operator has a desk in the lobby of the Marriott.

Our transfer to the Marriott. We came to find out that Ramas – the operator has a desk in the lobby of the Marriott.

George pointed out a handful of notable buildings on the drive and proved to be true to his word. We made it to the hotel and the night manager Ahmed apologized for the issue and committed to further investigation. For perhaps the first time in recent memory, I very politely asked when the general manager would be in, as I wanted to discuss the issue with them.  I never did get to connect with the general manager, but did at least connect with the lounge manager who fixed things.

Wrapping Up
To sum things up: I arrived in Egypt with an open mind. Our Etihad cabin crew reassured our faith in humanity. Marriott clearly failed. Skeptical, we trusted folks that clearly wanted to help. Rashed offered taxis, but accepted when we said we had pre-arranged transfer. Rashed helped even when it became clear that they didn’t have any opportunity to gain.
There’s still more to the story of our brief trip to Cairo, but this skeptical New York born traveler has been pleasantly surprised already.

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