Our flight from Rome to Amman had left almost half an hour late. We arrived in Amman at 7:35pm on Tuesday evening. Bharat’s flight to Delhi was scheduled to leave at 8:15pm. Mine was scheduled to leave at 8:20pm. We both ran – I mean full run type of run – through the airport. We said our goodbyes very quickly and each of us continued to run to our gates. The boards said it was the last call for both our planes. I reached my gate and found it completely empty, save for two airlines’ men. Are you going to Cairo, they asked. I am, I huffed and puffed. Calm down, they told me, smiling. You don’t understand, I explained. You have no idea what I’ve done to get this far. Please do not let the plane leave without me, I begged. They told me not to worry. Where’s your boarding pass, they asked. I didn’t have one. In Rome, I was told I could only get my boarding pass to my Cairo flight in Amman. Two other Egyptians came up behind me. They were also on the flight from Rome and were trying to catch the same flight to Cairo. They also had no boarding passes. Hamdy Qandeel, the well-known Egyptian journalist, also appeared with no boarding pass. He, however, was important enough to let through without a second thought. Me and the other two Egyptians waited as the airlines fellow made a few quick calls. “Don’t allow the plane to leave,” I heard him say probably to the pilot. I still have a few passengers here who need to board, he added. It took only three or four minutes and they let us on the plane without boarding passes. Just sit anywhere, they told us. Everyone was smiling; the two airlines’ men and the flight attendant who greeted us on the plane. It was as if they had seen many people before us in the same situation the past few days. They seemed happy to be able to bring us home.
Bharat gave me a quick call. “Have you made it to the plane?” he asked? I have, I confirmed. And you? I asked. He had also made it to the plane and would soon be on his way to Delhi.
As we sat on the still-landed plane, I got to know the Egyptian couple. They were in Frankfurt for a trade exhibition. Somehow they had lost their luggage while stranded in Europe. Their Schengen visa also expired. They went to some trouble to renew it long enough for them to get home. They found difficulties finding a hotel room and eventually found one room for one night. They also spent much time at Frankfurt Airport. They somehow made their way to Milan without luggage and from Milan to Rome by train. But they took the slow train to Rome. Their experience on that train was rather an uncomfortable one, they told me. The electricity on the train went on and off, the bathroom facilities were awful, and the people on the train looked “questionable”, they said. They had also considered the option of getting to Egypt by ferry from Italy. They said, contrary to what Egyptian man had told me, that there was an office at Rome Airport that organized ferry trips across the Mediterranean. According to Egyptian couple, many Egyptians who couldn’t get flights out of Europe were resorting to this option.
As we talked, we heard the plane engine go on and off. The sound was the same that a car makes when you’re trying to turn it on but it refuses to. Rerrr….rerrrrrrr….reerrrrrrrrr….rerrrrrrrrrrrrrr, the plane engine went. But nothing happened. This went on for about 15 minutes. Finally the flight attendant told us we’d have to get off the plane while they fixed it. It would take another two hours.
Egyptian couple and I laughed and laughed and laughed. What a trip this was! We were definitely all jinxed, we decided jokingly. We went back to the waiting area in front of the gate and Egyptian couple called their family and friends and told them they were still trying to get home. “We got on the plane to Cairo,” the male member of the couple told one family member. “Then we got off the plane,” he laughed heartily.
It only took 20 minutes to fix the problem, however, and we were asked to re-board. This was very happy news to us indeed!
The trip home took only 1 ½ hours and I finally had both feet in Cairo.
I found my car parked just where I had left it and drove myself home. My mind immediately drifted to the long drive from Paris to Milan. I quietly wished that Bharat and Abdallah were both safely on their journeys home.
I arrived at my Cairo apartment at 11pm on Tuesday night. The children were fast asleep just as I had instructed. They had school the next morning. I opened the door to the boys’ room. “Boys, I’m back,” I whispered gently. Mohammed turned in his bed half asleep and put out his arms for a hug and kiss and went back to sleep. Abdelrahman was sleeping peacefully and my kisses on his cheek did not wake him.
As I walked out of their room, Aya opened the door to the girls’ room. We hugged. “When did you arrive?” she asked. I told her I just got in. “How are you all?” I asked. They were all perfectly fine. We both walked into the girls’ room and Aya woke up her sister. “Somaya, Mama’s here.” Somaya stirred in her bed, sat up, and put out her arms for a hug. “I missed you all so much,” I told her. And they all went back to sleep.
My journey from London to Cairo lasted exactly 36 hours. On my journey, I traveled 340.55 kilometers by train from London to Paris, 957.6 km by car from Paris to Milan, 476 kilometers by train from Milan to Rome, 2347.28 kilometers by plane from Rome to Amman, and 493.43 kilometers by plane from Amman to Cairo; adding to a total of 4614.86 kilometers.
The cost of this trip was approximately 1800 Euros.