TRAVEL THERE: MY LUXURY VACATION BEGINS
If you read this blog with any regularity then you’re well aware that I don’t spend a lot of time in swanky hotels. I’m more the quaint bed & breakfast type, when I can find it, or I’m bragging about the huge discount I found on Expedia. However, on this trip we were in top hotels all the way. In Cairo, we checked into the Fairmont Heliopolis.
Leaving the Airport
One of the things I remembered from my previous trip to Egypt was the wide open spaces between the airport and Heliopolis. Once we had dealt with the absence of our luggage on that trip, I’d sat the backseat of a car wondering just how far we were going to drive before we got to anything.
It’s not that way anymore. It’s like the stretch of LBJ between I-35 and DFW Airport. While it used to be out in the middle of nowhere, it’s now chock-a-block with restaurants, hotels and other buildings. Outside the Cairo Airport was the same thing. What’s more, I barely blinked before we were entering the main thoroughfare of Heliopolis and almost immediately we arrived at the Fairmont. So the first thing you might want to know about the Fairmont is that it’s close to the airport.
The Security Routine
Here’s the drill for most hotel properties in Egypt. (The Cecil in Alexandria and the Dahab Paradise were exceptions to the rule, but pretty much anyplace else put you through this.) The properties are all fenced and gated. You pull up to a guard house with a barrier across the driveway. Your car is thoroughly checked.
First they get the ID of the driver and question him. Then he has to fill in a log. Then they do a physical check of the exterior of the car which includes looking under it with a mirror. Some places also had sniffer dogs. The driver opens the trunk and the dogs and/or metal detectors are used to check out the contents. There are usually a group of guards and after they’ve conferred with one another, the barrier is lifted and you drive through. Someone is usually standing nearby with a machine gun. Some kind of welcome, huh?
Ayman, our niece’s husband, assumed we were in the newer part of the hotel and drove through the older portico to deliver us to the Towers. Only we weren’t in the Towers. The bags were pulled out by the bell staff and Ayman drove away, but once inside we were directed across the way to the original part of the lobby. It was late and I was ready for bed.
Now the reason we were staying at the Fairmont is that we were part of the wedding party and that’s where they were staying. We like to keep our accommodations in two digits if we can, but we were splurging. I have to confess that I was glad we stayed in the older part of the hotel. The new part had that edgy clean look, but I’m a sucker for crystal chandeliers and other gaudy looking hotel lobby decor, like the replica of a pharaonic boat in the Fairmont lobby.
The check-in hasn’t even begun, but I’ve already run out of words, so come back next week to see how we liked our room.