HomeNewsChocks away to Cairo! (Part 1)

Chocks away to Cairo! (Part 1)

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NINE years after abandoning flights to and from Harare because of the then worsening political and economic climate, EgyptAir will resume operations with, initially, four times weekly return flights from today.

Travel with Dusty Miller

Egypt’s national aviation carrier will leave Cairo each Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, via Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, returning from Harare on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays on the same route.

Boeing 737-900ERs will be used on the 8 hour 15 minute flight to the Egyptian capital. The return journey is 10 hours 20 minutes.

Cairo is the main aviation hub for North Africa, the Middle East and much of the eastern Mediterranean. EgyptAir serves 17 African destinations and 20 in Europe, including London and Manchester. The EgyptAir flight to Heathrow from Harare will take 21 hours 50 minutes; the return trip 16 hours 50 minutes, both including a stop in Cairo.

An EgyptAir air-line ticket with a month’s validity to London from Harare in June/July was shown on Skyscanner.Com this week as costing US$988.

While Egypt is still experiencing violent repercussions from the Arab Spring Revolution, it is home to some of the world’s most popular travel destinations, including the Pyramids at Cairo; Luxor, Karnack and the Valley of the Kings, from which most of the Nile cruises operate and the all-year-round luxury beach resorts of the Sinai Peninsula, such as Sharm-el-Sheikh, with unrivalled snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities.

Skyscanner.Com quotes a return ticket from Harare to Cairo as costing US$611 by EgyptAir, which abandoned flights to Zimbabwe following the land invasions about the same time as did Qantas of Australia, Air France and Lufthansa (Germany).

Aviation hub

Zimbabwean travellers can now enjoy hassle-free flights to and from one of Africa’s major travel destinations either for business or pleasure. Cairo is a major aviation hub for North Africa, the Middle East, the eastern Mediterranean and EgyptAir flies to airports in the Far East, Canada and the USA.

Waiting to be explored by Zimbabwean seasoned travellers and novices is historic Cairo, the Egyptian capital and The City of 1000 Minarets (referring to the preponderance of Islamic architecture there).

Cairo itself is relatively young, having been founded by the Fatimid Caliphite Dynasty in 1000AD, but land comprising the modern city was the site of previous national capitals whose remnants appear in Old Cairo. It is associated with Ancient Egypt and the antiquities of the ancient cities of Memphis, Giza and Fustat which are near the Great Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza.

Many first time visitors to Egypt are amazed that the Pyramids and Sphinx are to be found virtually in the Cairo suburbs and it is perhaps a little disappointing to discover modern slums, hovels and massive over-crowding cheek-by-jowl with these World Heritage sites.

Another negative effect of this is the annoying presence of scores if not hundreds of young beggars who manage to avoid the ordinary police, security police and tourism police to beg for baksheesh or try to sell gimcrack tourist souvenirs to unwary travellers. (Don’t ever lend your camera to a local to have a snap taken in front of the Pyramids! Chances are you’ll never see it again!)

Crowds are everywhere. Cairo has a population of 6,75 million spread over 425 sq km and another 10 million folk live just over the city borders. It is by far the largest city in Africa and the 10th largest urban conurbation in the world.

Like many other mega-cities Cairo suffers high levels of air pollution and often almost total traffic chaos. For years I believed the two worst cities to try to drive around or through were Birmingham, in the British West Midlands and Paris, France. Then I tried driving in Nairobi, Kenya on a working day and wondered how the Kenyans ever get anything done. Total driving anarchy and absolute gridlock means it must be totally impossible to keep an appointment.

Camels, curs

Then a few months later I experienced Cairo, 30 years after my last visit! And what with horses, donkeys, cattle, half starving curs and camels to contend with on badly designed roads, alongside two or three million exhaust-blowing cars, Cairo goes to the top of the pops for motoring headaches. Mind you, Ha-ha-ha-rarare (Africa’s fun capital) is rapidly going the same way!

At least Cairo has a Metro, an underground railway or subway to take some pressure off the choked roads, squares and roundabouts. One of only two underground railway systems in Africa (if you exclude the Gautrain system in Gauteng) — the other’s in Algiers — Cairo’s ranks 15th busiest in the world with more than a billion annual passenger rides.

Next week, we’ll look at some of the other major Egyptian tourism attractions, but today we’ll have a quick glance in words at the ultra-modern ritzy-glitzy purpose built resort cities of Sharm-el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula in Asian Egypt.

For many years occupied by the Israeli Defence Forces, Sharm is a fascinating place of diverse marine life with hundreds of magnificent Red Sea coral diving sites, through schools of colourful tropical fish on to wrecks dating from Biblical times to Gulf War days.

It has many first class resorts, posh night life and the invitingly clear, warm waters of the Mohammed Marine National Park are close by offering an abundance of marine wildlife apparently in Technicolor and – oddly enough — scores of toilets, thanks to a freight ship carrying bathroom fixtures sinking there in a storm in 1981!

For fans of multi-destination tourism, you can book day trips by coach and-or-ferry from Sharm to Eilat in southern Israel and breathtaking Petra, the once lost rose-red city in the Jordan Desert, inland from Aqaba, twixt Dead Sea and Red Sea.

dustym@zimind.co.zw

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