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Special Reports Last Updated: Jul 11th, 2007 - 01:20:56

Egypt, a vibrant land of contrasts and contradictions -- Part 1: Getting there
By Bev Conover
Online Journal Editor & Publisher

Jun 4, 2007, 00:30

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Land of the Pharohs. [Bev Conover photo]

Understand that what I shall relate in this series are my own observations, experiences and what I was told by people I encountered. In no way is this a definitive treatise on Egypt or Egyptians.

Since this was my first air trip since 9-11, I wasn�t sure what to expect. Luckily, my name isn�t on the �no-fly� list.

The first leg of my journey started from Gainesville Regional Airport in Florida, where I obtained all three of my boarding passes (Delta�s Atlantic Southeast Airways, Air France to Paris and a second Air France flight to Cairo) and checked my bag straight through to Cairo, crossing my fingers it would arrive with me.

Then clutching the ridiculous plastic quart bag with liquids and gels of 3.5 ounces or less each, depositing it, along with shoes, carry-on and camera bag on the X-ray conveyor, I started through security. I knew I was in for some additional �treatment� when the TSA agent marked my boarding pass with a red pen.

Sure enough. I was invited to �step over here,� asked if I had ever had �a pat-down� and did I want to go to a �private area.� I told the woman �no� and �no.� Hell, I wanted people to witness this and there was no way I was going to take my eyes off my stuff now sitting on the other end of the conveyor.

Gainesville is a small airport with only two gates and no overflow of passengers. Perhaps the TSA people get bored and have to frisk a few people each day to liven things up.

Little did I realize I that over the next 20-plus hours I would be climbing into and out of planes, from the Aerospatiale/Alenia ATR72 to Atlanta, the Boeing 747-400 to Paris and the Airbus A330 to Cairo.

I hadn�t been to Charles De Gaul airport in Paris since May 2000, when it was a comfortable, civilized place. So I had no knowledge of the construction project underway that caused us to disembark on the tarmac and board shuttle buses that seemed to be giving us a tour of the whole facility before depositing me at the terminal from which to make the connection to Cairo. Interestingly, while I had not left the secure area, I had to go through security again. No shoes off this time, but the silly little plastic bag had to be put through X-ray, along with my carry-on and camera bag.

My only complaint about Air France, aside from being crammed into coach like cattle, is the food it serves is a disgrace to French cuisine.

The flight from Paris to Cairo was uneventful. Clouds, unfortunately, obscured the ground but there was a break long enough for a peek at the Greek islands as we flew over them. My checked bag even made it and my hosts were waiting for me.

The trip back to the US turned into the journey from hell, but more about that in the final part of this series.

Part 2: Cairo and Alexandria

Part 3: People, politics and economics

Final part: The return to the US was the trip from hell

Egypt Photo Gallery

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